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Aggie transfer AJ Vongphachanh is happy with his choice to finish at BYU

After wrapping up his degree at Utah State, Vongphachanh felt BYU was ‘the right place’ to wrap up his college football career

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Texas Tech QB Jake Strong, bottom, and BYU linebacker AJ Vongphachanh battle for a fumble during game Saturday.

Texas Tech QB Jake Strong, bottom, and BYU linebacker AJ Vongphachanh battle for a fumble during game Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Provo, Utah.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

Depending on how Saturday goes, AJ Vongphachanh’s college career will either be extended to a bowl game, or it will be over. Either way, the Utah State grad transfer has no regrets about finishing up his college football career at BYU.

“I just kind of felt like this was the right place,” said the 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker from Pasco, Washington. “I never thought that this is where I would end up. I spent so many years (trying to beat BYU) but I never got that win with the Aggies, but I’m glad I made that decision.”

BYU Cowboys TV box

Cougars on the air


BYU (2-6, 5-6)
at Oklahoma State (6-2, 8-3)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MST
Boone Pickens Stadium
Stillwater, Oklahoma
TV: ABC
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM

After his fourth season at Utah State, Vongphachanh’s linebackers coach left. With his degree in hand, he figured he might as well look at his options. The fact that Kalani Sitake had hired Justin Ena to coach the linebackers at BYU piqued his interest.

Vongphachanh knew Ena from previous recruiting efforts, and he was aware of Sitake and Jay Hill’s defensive prowess. He also knew the culture for his final year of eligibility would be very different at BYU.

“It’s a lot different,” Vongphachanh said. “Just in terms of Coach Kalani and how he is such a big part of this program. He’s unlike any coach I’ve ever had. I’ve grown to love him and his program.”

Vongphachanh’s biggest challenge at BYU was his late arrival from the transfer portal.

“I needed to come in here in a short amount of time and earn the trust of my teammates,” he said. “That was the biggest thing. I didn’t have multiple years or even a spring season to do that.”

When linebacker Ben Bywater went down with a season-ending shoulder injury during the fourth game, Vongphachanh’s role grew even larger. He had to be a menace on the field and a mentor for the younger guys at the same time. Vongphachanh will take the field on Saturday second on the team, behind linebacker Max Tooley, with 70 tackles.

The Cougars play at No. 21 Oklahoma State (1:30 p.m. MST, ABC) with a lot on the line for both teams. BYU (5-6) needs a victory to snap a four-game skid and qualify for a bowl game. Oklahoma State (8-3) is one win away from a date in the Big 12 championship game and the Cowboys feature Ollie Gordon II — the leading rusher in college football.

“It seems like every week we are facing a really, really good running back,” Vongphachanh said. “Wrapping him up is going to be a big thing for us. We just need to be consistent and do our job.”

The possibility of Saturday being Vongphachanh’s last football game is an added motivation.

“I’ve played tons of games throughout my life. It’s pivotal to me to just give my all out there for my teammates and for those who made this opportunity possible,” he said. “I’ll be forever grateful that I chose to play here.”

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Cincinnati tight end Chamon Metayer, right, goes up for a touchdown catch as BYU linebacker AJ Vongphachanh defends during game Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, in Provo, Utah.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

You can see Dave McCann’s interview with AJ Vongphachanh Saturday morning at 11:30 on BYUtv’s “Gameday” pre-game show, including the areas where Vongphachanh believes BYU must improve to better compete in the Cougars second year in the Big 12.