ARLINGTON, Texas — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake knew from the minute he walked into AT&T Stadium on Wednesday morning at the Big 12 football media days that he was in his element.

“You know me, I like hanging out with people, guys. Come on,” Sitake said. “When I first walked in here, I was like, ‘yeah, this is really cool.’ I just want everybody to feel the passion and excitement I have to be here. This a really cool moment for me.”

“This has been a dream for me, so please don’t wake me up.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake at Big 12 football media days.

While on the big stage Wednesday afternoon, Sitake moved seamlessly from joking around about food and his waistline to reflections on how his program works hard to represent the values of its sponsoring institution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

BYU’s eighth-year coach even had some hardened and longtime Big 12 reporters chuckling at his self-deprecating style and genuine demeanor.

When there was a break in the questions from the crowd, he joked that everybody must be hungry like he was. Later, to a smaller gathering of reporters, he talked about wanting to buy dinner for everyone and “use my BYU (credit) card” to pay for it.

He talked about his favorite ice cream flavor (rocky road), his newfound appreciation for pistachio ice cream, and much more that had little to do with football but allowed his personality to shine through.

“I love protein and carbs,” he said. “That’s how you get this body, eating a lot of carbs. That’s where I go (for food). … Provo’s altitude is tough, for a jogger. You can tell I don’t jog very often.”

And on it went.

“This has been a dream for me, so please don’t wake me up,” he said. “I am enjoying it. We are in the Big 12 now, and I am excited for everyone to get to meet our fan base and see how they’ve been a strength for us and our program and definitely a strength for me as a head coach.”

Berry Tramel, longtime columnist for the Oklahoman, said he became instant friends with Sitake when he visited Provo a year ago for a series of articles on the Big 12 newcomers.

“I thought he was completely charming. Affable is the way I see him. I think that will play well,” in the Big 12, Tramel told the Deseret News. “Now, the league has all kinds of different coaches. (Mike) Gundy is sort of a wise-(guy). And (Steve) Sarkisian is just so serious. (Dave) Aranda is all cerebral. Sonny Dykes is sort of folksy.

“But I think just the affability of Kalani is going to work great,” Tramel continued. “He’s just so down to earth and personable. And if that doesn’t resonate with people in Texas and Oklahoma, I don’t know what will.”

Sitake opened his address by mentioning that he sought pointers and tips from new BYU starting quarterback Kedon Slovis, who was at USC and Pitt before transferring to BYU.

“He’s been through more media days than I have,” Sitake quipped, drawing laughter.

Later, he mentioned how BYU gives free ice cream to opposing fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium before the fourth quarter begins, then suggested they extend that courtesy to the coaches.

“But it is a different experience (in Provo),” he said. “And the beauty from the fans matches what you’re seeing in the landscape, the mountains and everything.”

Along with Slovis, BYU also brought punter Ryan Rehkow, linebacker Ben Bywater, defensive end Tyler Batty and receiver Kody Epps to the event. All five said Sitake was in his element the minute they landed in their charter jet.

“For sure, man, he’s a silver tongue, man. He is butter smooth when he is talking to guys,” Bywater said. “I think he’s doing exactly what he wants to be doing. He’s really good with people, he’s warm. That guy is as good as it gets.”

Slovis said that he, Epps, Sitake and BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe went out for ice cream Tuesday night, and marveled at how unusual, but enjoyable, that was. Of course, Slovis once famously needled Provo and BYU fans for that kind of stuff, but said he’s learned it is real and genuine.

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“Kalani is such a great human, and the way he goes about life is (inspiring), because he is so humble,” Slovis said. “I wouldn’t want to play for any other sort of coach. He’s awesome.

“We are getting ice cream last night, and I am like, ‘if I was at another school, this might be too hokey.’ I wouldn’t be allowed to be in the same car as them,” Slovis continued. “But me and Kody were just chilling with them. They are super laid back and super comfortable. I love those guys.”

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Rehkow, the only specialist among the dozens of players who either spoke Wednesday or will speak Thursday when the event continues with seven more teams getting their turns to talk, said Sitake can flourish in any element — one-on-one in his office, at home with his family, or on the big stage at a Power Five conference’s media day.

“Kalani loves just taking things in, going with the flow. He doesn’t need the big stage for him to be himself. I think the big stage allows people to see how incredible of a coach and a person that he is,” Rehkow said. “For us, when we see him answering questions and joking and all that stuff, we love it. We would go out and pour our hearts on the field for that guy. It is fun for us to see other people see that in him.”

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