Before last Friday night, BYU sophomore Masen Wake had already burst on the national scene, building an instant reputation for hurdling and trucking opposing defenders, leaving bodies strewn on the turf in his wake. 

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But after scoring the go-ahead, fourth-quarter touchdown in the Cougars’ 43-26 victory at HoustonWake caught a Patrick Mahomes-like shovel pass from quarterback Zach Wilson and rumbled eight yards into the end zone — the 6-foot-1, 250-pound fullback/tight end/human tank revealed to ESPN cameras a T-shirt with a special message that he sported under his No. 13 jersey. 

Emblazoned in royal blue on the bottom were the words, “REST IN HEAVEN MOM.”

“She’s made me who I am today. The trials I’ve been through have made me stronger and just everything I do is for her. I know she is with me each and every day and I like to live life that way.” — Masen Wake

In that moment, everyone outside BYU’s program learned there’s a lot more to Wake than his dynamic play on the field. And, in that moment, it also explained a lot about why he plays like he does. 

The photo of Wake paying tribute to his late mother, Pam, has gone viral, just like his hurdling and steamrolling of opponents went viral earlier this season. 

“Everything I do is to make her more proud. I know she’s proud of me. My family, they love seeing it. It just means the world to me,” said the former Lone Peak High star. “I don’t know if anyone notices this but after every touchdown, I usually pound my chest and point to the sky. That’s for my mom. Everything I do is for my family. When I write (“Mom”) on my arm, a lot of people didn’t know about it. Everything I do is for her.”

BYU tight end Masen Wake leaps over UTSA Roadrunners safety Antonio Parks at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

When Wake was almost 9 years old, his mom died after a prolonged bout with cancer. 

“She’s been out of my life for a while but she’s definitely been inside me for a while. She’s made me who I am today,” Wake said. “The trials I’ve been through have made me stronger and just everything I do is for her. I know she is with me each and every day and I like to live life that way.”

At last count, the photo of Wake standing in the end zone in Houston, honoring his mom, had accumulated nearly 54,000 likes and more than 3,000 retweets on his Twitter account. Accompanying the photo, he wrote, “Love you mama.”

“The reaction’s been awesome. I had no intention of it blowing up. But it kind of blew up,” Wake said. “A lot of people didn’t know my story and didn’t know why I wrote, ‘Mom’ on my arm but it definitely got the message out there.”

Prior to the game, Wake texted coach Kalani Sitake to ask him if it was OK to pay homage to his mom with the T-shirt. Sitake signed off on it, and Wake’s glad everything turned out the way it did.

“I just want to represent her and it was cool doing it,” Wake said.

Wake, who arrived at BYU last year as a walk-on, picked up hurdling quite naturally. 

“Growing up, I was sort of a bigger kid. A lot of the second-level guys would go for my ankles. They’d dive down and I try to run them over and I’d tackle myself,” he said. “Over time, I’ve learned to hurdle and add another thing to my game. A lot of people just think I can just run over people. I keep adding things to my game and hopefully I can add more.”

As a freshman last season, Wake played sparingly. This season, his role has expanded on a BYU team that boasts a 5-0 record and a No. 12 national ranking

“I told the coaches that I didn’t even want the ball. I just want to get on the field. I’ll block. I just wanted to get on the field,” Wake said. “They took that to heart and they use me on special teams, anything. I didn’t care what it was. I just wanted to get on the field. It’s starting to show all the things I can do.”

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Before arriving at BYU, the coaching staff told Wake that he’d have a chance to play as a freshman. “I trusted them,” he said. “I took a chance on myself and it’s starting to pan out.”

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Wake is hoping at some point that he’ll be put on scholarship. But for now, he’s enjoying the opportunity to be on the field and make an impact. This season, Wake has had four carries for 15 yards and two touchdowns. He’s caught seven passes for 88 yards and a TD.

“That’s why I’m here, to hit people hard and block. All the other stuff falls into place,” he said. “As far as blocking and catching the ball, I get way more joy out of blocking for one of my dudes and pancaking someone than catching the ball. Whatever I do, I’m just trying to bring energy to my team.” 

And now we know what helps fuel Masen Wake — the unassailable power of his mom’s love and legacy. 

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