‘I want to see our team be great’: BYU tight end Matt Bushman on why he returned for his senior season
Bushman watched April’s NFL draft closely, called it a ‘surreal’ experience, but says he has ‘no regrets’ about his decision even though the 2020 college football season could be delayed, shortened or played without fans
PROVO — Watching the NFL draft in April was a surreal experience for BYU tight end Matt Bushman.
“I paid attention to it, just because I was curious where guys we played against would get chances, or guys on our team would get chances,” Bushman said recently. “Yeah, it was interesting to watch it, just because I was thinking, ‘Hey, I could have been in this situation.’”
Instead, as many BYU fans know, Bushman chose in December to return to BYU for his senior season, along with another player who might have also been drafted, defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga. No Cougars were drafted, which “came as a disappointment” to Bushman, although running back Ty’Son Williams, defensive back Dayan Ghanwoloku and receiver Aleva Hifo got free agent opportunities.
And although the coronavirus pandemic could alter the 2020 season, or cause some games to be played without fans in attendance, Bushman said he has no regrets about his decision.
“Ever since I made that decision I haven’t regretted it,” said the senior from Tucson, Arizona. “I was told to not look back, once I made my decision, and I haven’t. It could have been cool to be moving on, but it is a blessing that I am staying and I am happy to put the work in and hopefully I have a good experience in April next year.”
Since the pandemic hit, Bushman and his wife of nearly two years, former BYU volleyball player Emily Lewis, have been living in Orem and doing their best to stay safe and away from COVID-19. The daughter of former BYU star tight end Chad Lewis is due to deliver the couple’s first child, a girl, in September.
Bushman said during the “Hanging with the Cougs” segment on Zoom that working out individually, instead of in groups as they normally do in the late spring and summer, has been beneficial “in a weird way” for him and his teammates.
“Not being able to do that chemistry-building stuff has been interesting, but I feel like a lot is getting done,” he said. “If guys want to put in the work, they will find ways to get bigger, faster and stronger. I agree with what coaches are saying: We can turn this into a blessing for us and we can come back stronger than we have been in past years.”
Bushman enters his final season ranked No. 20 on BYU’s career receptions list with 125 and No. 22 on the school’s receiving yardage list with 1,719. With another 600-plus yardage season he can move into the top 10 in both categories all-time.
“Ever since I made that decision I haven’t regretted it, I was told to not look back, once I made my decision, and I haven’t. It could have been cool to be moving on, but it is a blessing that I am staying and I am happy to put the work in and hopefully I have a good experience in April next year.” — BYU tight end Matt Bushman
But he said he’s more concerned that BYU puts together a special season than his own legacy and records.
“I want to be with the guys,” he said. “I want to make a bigger impact. I want to win more than seven games. I want to see our team be great.”
Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said Bushman is “a great receiving tight end, probably the best in the country this year,” but has also come a long ways as a blocker and route runner.
“Matt is a natural ball-catcher. He does a great job with the run after the catch as well,” Grimes said. “If you just throw the ball anywhere where Matt can get his fingers on it, he is going to catch it.”
Bushman was asked in the Zoom meeting which position he would like to play if he couldn’t play tight end.
“My freshman year of high school, and going into my sophomore year, I got brought up to varsity to play quarterback,” he said. “So, I think I can sling it if it was necessary.”
Linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi, who works out with Bushman, heard that reply and responded: “I don’t know Matt. I have seen you throw, and it is a little suspect.”
While praising Bushman and Tonga for returning in an attempt to put together that special season that has eluded them in their three previous seasons, head coach Kalani Sitake said the returnees have already established themselves as leaders, even remotely.
“Our team will go as far as our leaders will take them. I have been really impressed with these guys,” Sitake said. “Matt and Khyiris are coming back with a vision. It wasn’t just to come back and play another year of football. It was to get some things accomplished, and so I have been really impressed with them.”
More on BYU tight end Matt Bushman
• Caught 47 passes for 688 yards and four touchdowns in 2019, but decided to return in 2020 for senior season
• Has caught 125 passes for 1,719 yards and nine touchdowns as a three-year starter at BYU
• Married to former BYU volleyball player Emily Lewis, daughter of former BYU and NFL great Chad Lewis
• All-state baseball player at Sabino High in Tucson also played baseball at BYU in 2017