Mendenhall says he won't be emotional when he takes on his alma mater

2009-12-09T07:15:00Z Mendenhall says he won't be emotional when he takes on his alma materBy Cliff Kirkpatrick, Gazette-Times reporter Corvallis Gazette Times

Bronco Mendenhall left the Oregon State football program in 1997 and didn't look back.

He focused on his coaching dreams and what lay ahead.

Mendenhall eventually achieved his goal, and will come full circle when he coaches No. 15 Brigham Young against No. 16 OSU in the Dec. 22 Las Vegas Bowl.

It will be the second time he crosses paths with his alma mater, and the program where he got his start as a graduate assistant under Dave Kragthorpe in 1989-90.

The first came in 2000 when he coached at New Mexico and the Beavers played there. However, he's yet to return to Corvallis in 12 years.

He will feel little to no emotion in the game as he left those behind when the Beavers replaced Jerry Pettibone with coach Mike Riley. Mendenhall was OSU's defensive coordinator at the time.

"I'm so far removed, there is really no resemblance nor similarities, and doesn't hold any sentiments for me," Mendenhall said. "It's just another team we're playing in a bowl game. No disrespect to them, but for me personally."

His last time on campus was leaving the office after a two-year stint with Pettibone. Mendenhall served as the defensive line coach in 1995 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1996.

On his way out, Mendenhall ran into Riley, who was moving in. Riley nearly kept him on the staff, and that meeting turned into a friendship. They meet at Nike functions, and their wives have become friends.

"I have grown to know Mike Riley and his wife," Mendenhall said. "Holly (Mendenhall's wife) and I have met them on a number of occasions and we're very impressed, and consider them very good friends."

Mendenhall's first taste of OSU came to in 1986 as a junior college transfer out of Snow College near Salt Lake City. He grew up in Utah and wanted to play for BYU because his father and brother played for the Cougars.

But they didn't recruit him, so he was upset. He looked for a team on their schedule to play for and get revenge.

Mendenhall found the Beavers, and as a safety helped them beat the Cougars in the last meeting between the teams in 1986, 10-7 in Provo.

"The main reason I chose OSU was BYU was on the schedule," Mendenhall said. "I felt looked over. The fact of the matter is I wasn't good enough. Then after we won that game I laid on the field looking up, soaking it all in. Then I left wondering what do I do next? I accomplished my original goal."

After finishing his playing career Mendenhall started coaching with Pettibone. He moved on to Snow College, Northern Arizona, OSU, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico in various defensive assistant and coordinator roles.

Mendenhall finally reached his dream school, being named BYU's head coach in 2005 and quickly revitalizing the program. He has led the Cougars to five straight Las Vegas Bowls and two Mountain West Conference titles.

The program went through three losing seasons before he arrived. BYU won six games his first season and reached at least 10 the last four.

While success has come at a steady pace now, Mendenhall says his OSU experience was an important foundation. He was around in the middle of the 28-year losing streak.

His time with the Beavers was one of growth that prepared him for much of what he would see on his coaching journey.

"If you look back at the time I was a player and coach it wasn't a successful time at Oregon State," Mendenhall said. "What I learned was a strong work ethic and how hard it is to win football games. And they are to be valued when you are able to have success."

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