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‘Best to wear it’: High flying tight ends, disruptive defenders highlight top BYU players to wear Nos. 80 through 99

Tight end Matt Bushman becomes the second current player to make our list as the Deseret News deems the senior the best No. 89 in BYU football history.

SHARE ‘Best to wear it’: High flying tight ends, disruptive defenders highlight top BYU players to wear Nos. 80 through 99
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BYU tight end Matt Bushman is taken down by Utah’s Chase Hansen at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. Bushman is the only current Cougar to make the Deseret News’ “Best to wear it” series, clocking in as the top player to wear No. 89 in BYU history. Bushman is out for the 2020 season, though, after rupturing his Achilles tendon in practice Monday.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Editor’s note: Fifth in a series that pegs the best player to don every jersey number in BYU football history.

PROVO — It took awhile, but our five-part “Best to wear it” series for BYU football has reached the end.

It didn’t conclude before another current BYU player made our list, however. Senior tight end Matt Bushman — who’s out for the 2020 season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in practice — gets the honor, as the Deseret News calls the All-America candidate the best Cougar gridder to ever wear the No. 89 jersey in Provo. 

Without further delay, we present the final installment of a series that started with the best to wear Nos. 1 through 19. Coincidentally, the NCAA (and BYU) just started allowing players to wear No. 0, and two players on BYU’s current roster are doing just that, freshman receiver Kody Epps and junior defensive back D’Angelo Mandell. 

Here are our choices for BYU’s top players from No. 80 to No. 99:

No. 80: Mekeli Ieremia, defensive lineman

Became the first great pass rusher in the LaVell Edwards era after moving to New York from American Samoa when he was 16 years old. Set the single-season sack record with 17 in 1976, earned AP honorable mention All-America honors in 1976 and 1977. Also considered: Larry Heaps, Marcus Mathews, Ty Mattingly, Kaipo McGuire, Toby Christensen. 

No. 81: Marion Probert, defensive lineman/wide receiver

Probert’s number was retired by BYU in 1977, eight years after he died tragically in an airplane crash while traveling to a BYU football game at New Mexico. Played from 1952-54, accumulated three all-conference citations and was an AP honorable mention All-American in 1954. Also considered: Lynn Mathie. 

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Chuck Cutler attempts to recover his balance after catching a pass.

Courtesy BYU Athletics

No. 82: Chuck Cutler, receiver

Former walk-on from Alta High turned in huge junior and senior seasons and earned all-WAC honors after both. Was as AP honorable mention All-American in 1988 and finished with 99 catches for 1,499 yards. Also considered: Larry Miller, Kaneakua Friel, Soren Halladay.

No. 83: Mat Mendenhall, defensive lineman

Brother of former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall, Mat posted 15 career sacks and starred in 1978 and 1979 after sustaining a season-ending head injury in 1976. Was an AP honorable mention All-American in 1978 and was a Super Bowl champion with Washington in 1982. Also considered: Bryce Doman, Dennis Poppinga.

No. 84: Jan Jorgensen, defensive lineman

One of the best pass rushers in school history, Jorgensen set several school records for sacks and finished an outstanding four-year starting career with 33.5 sacks and 221 total tackles. Was all-conference for three straight years. Also considered: Joe Liljenquist. 

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BYU tight end Clay Brown

Mark Philbrick/BYU

No. 85: Clay Brown, tight end

Forever known for catching the Hail Mary pass from Jim McMahon to win the 1980 Holiday Bowl, Brown should also be remembered for being one of the school’s top tight ends. He finished with 99 catches for 1,918 yards and 20 touchdowns and was inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame in 1999. Also considered: Zac Collie, Scott Norberg, Dennis Palmer.

No. 86: Ben Cahoon, receiver

After transferring from Ricks College, Cahoon became an instant hit at BYU, delivering 68 catches for 1,111 yards and six touchdowns before becoming the leading receiver in Canadian Football League history, a pro career that helped him edge out Dan Plater for recognition here. Also considered: Dan Plater, Doug Jolley, Earl Kauffman.

No. 87: Lloyd Jones, receiver

Former NFL coach Brian Billick is more well-known, but Jones had the better career at BYU, making 67 catches for 1,390 yards and six touchdowns. He was an AP honorable mention All-American in 1979 and 1980. Also considered: Brian Billick, Mitchell Juergens, Micah Matsuzaki, Jeff Frandsen, Adam Haysbert, Paul Mendenhall.

No. 88: Phil Odle, receiver

Named first-team all-conference all three years he played for the Cougars, Odle was inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame in 1978. He was also an outstanding defensive lineman. Odle played 31 games over three seasons in the NFL for the Detroit Lions before retiring in 1970. Also considered: Itula Mili, Andrew George, Bill Davis, Darren Handley, Ben Horton, Jay Miller. 

No. 89: Matt Bushman, tight end

Only the second current BYU player to make our list (joining Isaiah Kaufusi), Bushman caught 125 passes for 1,719 yards and nine touchdowns through his first three seasons as a Cougar. He was poised for another outstanding season before rupturing his Achilles tendon in practice a week before the 2020 opener. Also considered: Neil Balholm, Mike Pistorius, Spencer Nead, Terenn Houk, Fred Whittingham.

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Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi (90) chases Texas Longhorns quarterback Case McCoy (6) in Provo Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. BYU won 40-21.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

No. 90: Bronson Kaufusi, defensive lineman

Four-year starter left BYU in 2015 as one of the school’s all-time great defensive linemen and was drafted into the NFL by the Baltimore Ravens. Finished with 31.5 sacks and was a three-time all-independent team selection. Also considered: Stan Varner, Lenny Gomes, Corbin Kaufusi, Dan Bowers.

No. 91: Tevita Ofahengaue, tight end

Product of Hawaii’s Kahuku High, Ofahengaue blossomed his final three seasons in Provo and finished with 61 catches for 834 yards and three TDs. Was all-conference his senior season in 2000, LaVell Edwards’ last year. Also considered: Ross Varner, Henry Bloomfield, Judd Anderton, Hebron Fangupo, Travis Tuiloma.

No. 92: Jim Herrmann, defensive lineman

A mainstay on the 1984 national championship team, Hermann was also a team captain and a second-team All-American that season with 62 tackles, six sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Also considered: John Denney, Ryan Denney, Brett Denney, Tod Thompson, Graham Rowley, Handsome Tanielu. 

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BYU’s Brett Keisel (93) tries to run down Colorado State quaterback Bradlee Van Pelt (11) during second-half action as Colorado State faces BYU at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo Thursday, Nov. 1, 2001.

Jason Olson, Deseret News

No. 93: Brett Keisel, defensive lineman

Before he was drafted in the seventh round by the Pittsburgh Steelers and went on to a lengthy NFL career, Keisel was a standout tackle for BYU upon transferring from Snow College. The Wyoming native was a disruptive force for the Cougars’ defense in 2000 and 2001. Also considered: Brad Anae, Byron Frisch, Bracken El-Bakri. 

No. 94: Chris Smith, tight end

A two-time first-team All-American, Smith was a consensus pick in 1990 when he set an NCAA record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a season with 1,156 on 68 catches. Finished with 2,547 receiving yards at BYU. Also considered: Trevor Molini, Jeff Cowart, Vince Feula, Kesni Tausinga.

No. 95: Gordon Hudson, tight end

Like Smith, Hudson was a two-time first-team All-American. Hudson was a consensus AA in 1982 and 1983 and in 2010 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Finished as the NCAA record-holder for most receiving yards by a tight end, 2,484. Also considered: Byron Rex, Ifo Pili, Khyiris Tonga. 

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BYU tight end Chad Lewis finds himself up and on top of a UTEP defender in a photo that photographer Mark A. Philbrick titled “Bronco Rider.”

Mark Philbrick/BYU

No. 96: Chad Lewis, tight end

Current BYU athletics administrator was known for hurdling over defensive backs after walking on the team. He finished with 111 catches for 1,376 yards and 10 TDs and had a lengthy NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles. Made it to three Pro Bowls. Also considered: Carlos Nuno, Reed Hornung.

No. 97: Randy Brock, defensive lineman

Brock came out of Rexburg, Idaho, and became a four-year starter for the Cougars after sitting out his first year, 1990, with a medical redshirt. Highly productive for a defensive tackle, he finished with 175 total tackles and 25 sacks. Also considered: Daren Yancey, Travis Tuiloma.

No. 98: Brad Hunter, punter/defensive lineman

Who can forget “Hunter the Punter?” The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder pulled double-duty for the Cougars, and was most known for taking a fake punt 13 yards for a first down against Notre Dame. On defense, he made 63 career tackles and 7.5 sacks. Also considered: Romney Fuga, Mitch Harris, Isaiah Magalei, Mike Ulufale.

No. 99: Jason Buck, defensive lineman

Ricks College transfer won the Outland Trophy in 1986 and was also a consensus All-American that year after earning third-team AP honors in 10985. Finished with 25 career sacks and 112 tackles. Also considered: Manaia Brown, Greg Pitts, Brandon Flint, Setema Gali Jr., Marques Johnson, Riley Stephenson.