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Tim McTyer remembers strength of BYU’s 1996 Cotton Bowl team

From the ‘Where are they now’ files, Tim McTyer reflects on his BYU career and the strength of the 1996 Cougars defense that won the Cotton Bowl.

Former BYU defensive back Tim McTyer was a dominate force on the 1996 Cotton Bowl team.
Courtesy Tim McTyer

From the “Where are they now” files ...

Tim McTyer takes great pride that many consider BYU’s 14-1 1996 Cotton Bowl team to be the best defensive team the Cougars ever put on the field.

That 1996 squad had a stout defensive line, it had superior cover corners, smart and talented safeties and one of the best linebackers in school history.

McTyer, now 44, and Omarr Morgan were two junior college transfer corners that were both a little undersized, but they could pack a punch, cover like a blanket and had tremendous instincts. McTyer, who coaches high school football in Victorville, California, still keeps in contact with Morgan, who works at a store in Los Angeles near where he grew up.

“We just talked last month,” said McTyer. “He’s doing just fine. We talk every so often. I also keep in contact with current BYU coaches Aaron Roderick and Jernaro Gilford. But the former teammate I talk to the most is Margin Hooks.” McTyer also keeps active on social media and regularly tweets about BYU games, issues and personalities.

McTyer is a defensive coordinator and coaches defensive backs, a job he’s had the past three years. “Margin and I talk a lot about training and things.”

The Cotton Bowl win means a lot to McTyer.

“Coming out of LA, between high school and junior college, we didn’t win many games. Aside from that, Pop Warner football was the closest I’ve had to any kind of season like that. To get to that 1996 season, to be ranked, to play on a defense that set all kinds of records, make it to a New Year’s Day bowl, play in the Cotton Bowl and beat Kansas State. … It was all special to all of us.”

Former BYU defensive back Tim McTyer
Former BYU defensive back Tim McTyer
Mark A. Philbrick, Courtesy BYU

McTyer said that defense had a lot of playmakers. “You don’t hear the word selfish too much, but we were selfish in the respect that we held each other accountable to where each of us was going to do our job selfishly. We had a lot of playmakers who could make plays any time from any position, from the corners, safeties to the D-line and linebackers. It was kind of rare to have that many guys who make plays on the same team at the same time.”

McTyer and Morgan were backed up by safeties Chris Ellison, Jason Walker, Eddie Sampson and Lane Hale. The linebackers were the late Brad Martin, Shay Muirbrook, and Spencer Reid. Up front talent included Byron Frisch, Daren Yancey and Henry Bloomfield.

Some of the younger players included Ed Kehl, Derik Stevenson and current BYU assistant head coach Ed Lamb.

McTyer’s best skill was his instincts for both cover and run support. He was a hard-hitter and had a nose for the football. He recently made a highlight tape of his BYU career, which took years to compile, to help teach. He said one of the things you can’t coach or teach in football is instinct. “But with the science of it you kind of can by being smart. Back then I wasn’t exactly smart in the way people describe smart these days, but it was the instinct of knowing what angles to take and I played with great comfort.”

McTyer said position coach Brian Mitchell wasn’t going to bench him so he was comfortable that he could make plays and take more chances with his instincts. When he ended up being right on his reads and plays, it elevated his confidence.

McTyer said most of the players on that defense were small and slow and it was a knock on all of them. “I think that is one reason all of us had something to prove and played with a chip on our shoulders. Shay was one of the best football players I’ve ever been around. He had instincts. A lot of times he was blitzing when he wasn’t supposed to. You know, he was comfortable. He started four years and he was our leader because of his experience.

New York quarterback Danny Kannell passes under pressure from Philadelphia’s Tim McTyer (24) and William Thomas (51) Sunday, Dec. 7, 1997.
AP

“BYU was known as an offensive school and we tried to make it a defensive school. All our highlights were nothing but offense this and offense that and we’d kind of get pissed about it.”

Tim’s son, Torry, is in his fourth season in the NFL and resigned with the Bengals after two years with Miami. He has a daughter who is 20 and lives in Orange County.

In that 1996 season, McTyer led the team in pass breakups with 18. The defense had 18 interceptions, led by Morgan’s 4. McTyer and Muirbrook each had 3.

McTyer played two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and one with the Cleveland Browns. He was the head football coach at Banning High School in Los Angles and coached at LA Southwest Community College.

He’s also had a run as an entertainer, both as a rapper and stand-up comedian.