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Super Bowl’s Cougars displayed extraordinary leadership in college, and now doing so in NFL

Coachable, alert, plugged in, overachievers and natural leaders, 49er linebacker Fred Warner and Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen represent the best BYU has to offer come Sunday

Fred Warner and Daniel Sorensen won’t exactly go against each other on Super Bowl Sunday because they’re both defensive stalwarts on opposite teams.

But the two former BYU players, linebacker Warner for the San Francisco 49ers and safety Sorensen for the Kansas City Chiefs, share a standout trait in leadership.

They get it.

While at BYU, Warner and Sorensen put this admirable characteristic on display during their careers.

In BYU’s dismal 2017 four-win season, the football program held its weekly media gaggle with reporters in the foyer of the football offices a few days after Saturday games. Sitting at a table surrounded by reporters, Warner would come out week after week and field questions about mostly losses.

Other players, some of them with pretty high profiles over the seasons Warner played for the Cougars, were many times unavailable, be it a class, a test, a conflict of some sort, reporters were told. But Warner came out, faced tough questions, gave his best answers and, at times, confessed he did not know what to say.

On the field, Warner was accountable and held others to the same standard. He elevated those around him with his effort and energy and where he could, he vocally encouraged, pushed, admonished and called out slackers.

This is what he’s doing now as a quarterback of the 49er defense, the best in the NFL. He is fresh off NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for November.

Sorensen’s approach at BYU and now with the Chiefs is a little different but just as effective.

Quiet, somewhat of an introvert who doesn’t like to talk about himself, and a player who avoids the spotlight, Sorensen lets his physical play do the talking.

Where others might feel comfortable behind a microphone, Sorensen likes the cerebral approach to the game, looking at film, breaking down tendencies and keys. This isn’t to say Warner doesn’t do the same, as evidenced by his interview with the Deseret News when he said New England Patriot playmaker Kyle Van Noy taught him the importance of digital review.

Sorensen is a master of triangulating angles, creating leverage, reacting to his visual decision of what a play is going to develop into and getting to spots.

During his BYU years, he received one of the highest praises reporters ever heard come out of the mouth of defensive-minded head coach Bronco Mendenhall, himself a former college safety.

Mendenhall is very measured in the praise he metes to players because he is so plugged into keeping the motivational edge mentally on his players — that whatever they do, they can do much better.

Of Sorensen, Mendenhall said before 2013 bowl preparation in December:

“Daniel is zero maintenance and he’s always where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there performing at a higher level than you thought he would or expect,” Mendenhall said. “If I could have an entire team of Daniel Sorensens — that would be my ideal BYU team.”

While it’s true BYU has not had that many players of late drafted in the NFL, that doesn’t mean the program isn’t represented in Super Bowls, this time with two. Before that, it was Van Noy and the Patriots’ run to close out the decade.

Warner, who was drafted, and Sorensen, who was a free agent, represent positions where BYU tends to find recruiting success.

In Warner and Sorensen, the representation does the program proud.

And when it’s over, the school will have an alum with one of those gaudy sparkling heavy rings.