PROVO — BYU safety Zayne Anderson said that coaches and the school’s sports medicine people have been “pretty discreet” about revealing which football players have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic hit six months ago.
But at least one prominent player, starting quarterback Zach Wilson, acknowledged publicly Monday after fielding a question from the Deseret News on a video teleconference that he contracted the novel coronavirus during the summer.
Wilson has long since recovered and will start on Saturday when the Cougars (1-0) play host to Troy (1-0) at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8:15 p.m. MDT, ESPN).
Wilson said that some time next week — before BYU hosts Louisiana Tech — 90 days will have passed since he became infected, so “the plan” is for him to move out of his current living conditions. He shares a house with teammates Dax Milne, Brayden Cosper and others.
“So I am technically exempt (from becoming reinfected) right now because I already had it back, you know, whenever, so I am in my 90 days still, so I am exempt until the La Tech game (on Oct. 2),” he said.
Asked by the Deseret News if any players who have tested positive or been a part of the contact tracing measures will have to miss Saturday’s game, head coach Kalani Sitake declined to answer the question, but said the Cougars were planning to have a full-team practice on Monday.
Last week, after a number of players tested positive and a bigger number who were in contact with the infected players were quarantined, forcing BYU to postpone the Sept. 19 contest at Army, Sitake said the Cougars would practice only in groups of 10 players or smaller.
“We will have to make adjustments if we don’t have everyone available; that’s part of the season this year,” Sitake said, later adding that the offseason emphasis on building depth will pay off all season as players come and go out of quarantine.
On their “Coordinators’ Corner” show on BYUtv, offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes and special teams coordinator Ed Lamb said the Cougars will have “enough” players to field a competitive team against a red-hot Troy team that blasted Middle Tennessee State 47-14 last Saturday.
“Once we found out the number of guys who were going to be declared out, it was no longer feasible to play the game,” said Lamb. The assistant head coach who will become interim head coach if Sitake tests positive said that players who have the virus have to quarantine for 10 days, but players who are under contact tracing measures have to quarantine for 14 days.
“The contact tracing part of it, that’s been a big challenge to work through,” Lamb said. “… Right now we are good, as far as this (game goes), we are full speed ahead.”
That Wilson, who posted a passer rating of 206.7 in the 55-3 win over Navy, contracted coronavirus in late June is not a shocker — rumors were rampant of that on social media sites. Perhaps more stunning is how open the junior quarterback was in talking about it Monday.
BYU QB Zach Wilson says he picked up COVID-19 by having friends over during the summer and having a "gambling night" get-together. He said it "wasn't bad" and he was only sick for 4 days.— Jay Drew (@drewjay) September 21, 2020
“I think I got it from me and some of my buddies having a little neighborhood, we had a bunch of the football guys over and we were just having a little gambling night, you know?,” he said. “Having some fun. And somehow a bunch of us got it.”
Wilson said it “was not bad” and he experienced symptoms for four days and was ready to go again.
“For me, and the other guys that had it, it was just like a cold. Minor symptoms. Just tired, fatigued, all that kind of stuff. So for us, it was nothing crazy,” Wilson said.
Wilson said a teacher “that I loved” at Corner Canyon High School (Charri Jensen) has been hospitalized by COVID-19 so he knows “it affects everyone differently” and he must remain careful even though he is still within that 90-day window for a few more days.
“Personally, I am kinda like what (Vikings quarterback) Kirk Cousins said a little bit ago. I know he got harped on for it. But I would rather play football than ever worry about that kind of stuff. I wear a mask to respect those around me. … I know a lot of other guys on the team feel the same way. Honestly we would rather just play football than ever worry about this.”
But that’s not possible, so Wilson is looking for another place to live, probably by himself.
“The biggest thing is the contact tracing goes back to who you are living with. It is one of the biggest issues we have had. I personally have to find a spot for myself to live on my own. That’s not really something the coaches can do. They want to urge that, but that is something we have to do, and so if I really want to play this season without any issues, I probably got to find somewhere else to live so if any of my roommates get it I am not stuck and I am out.”
Anderson said the entire team is well-aware that Utah County has emerged as coronavirus hot spot for the state.
“It is really bad around here,” he said. “So we have just advised everyone to do their best to stay away from anyone in the public, without going to family events, to weddings, to any parties or anything. It is just little sacrifices, not going to any of those, that will help us prevent getting this disease and stuff.”
He said it is “especially tough” to practice social distancing in the locker room.
“You kinda know the guys that have had it,” he said. “And you stay away from the guys who might be out and about all the time.”