“I’ll probably get choked up and maybe even a bit teary-eyed before and after, but during the game I’m going to kick some butt,” said senior defensive lineman Vic So’oto when thinking about playing his final game at LaVell Edwards Stadium. “I have a lot of great memories there, that’s for sure.”
Those memories didn’t start off on a high note for him, however, as the team’s reaction from fans wasn’t what he anticipated out of high school.
“The first game at home, the fans booed us a lot, which really surprised me,” he recalled. “We were playing Boston College and weren’t doing well, but I seriously couldn’t believe they were booing that much and it really surprised me. The stadium wasn’t even full, but the people there, I think most of them even were booing us.”
So’oto arrived at BYU in 2005 on the heels of an unsuccessful coaching job by Gary Crowton, which led to a program with a lot of question marks. Given those question marks, fans were impatient at the time after having endured three straight losing seasons prior to So’oto’s arrival.
Since then BYU has done nothing but win. With the winning and other factors, fans have become proud of their program once again.
The change hasn’t been lost on So’oto or the other seniors.
“I remember real well coming into the Wyoming game this year with us being [2-5],” said So’oto. “We were a little down with the day being rainy and all that. During warmups no one was there hardly and it was a real bummer.”
“I remember that well because I was playing as bad as anyone at the time,” added senior receiver Luke Ashworth. “I remember thinking that I probably wouldn’t come either if I was a fan. We weren’t playing well, the weather was nasty. I was seriously wondering if even my family would show up.”
So’oto and Ashworth both went into the locker room after their warmups looking for some motivation, and found it quickly after he ran out onto the field to play.
“It was packed and it was incredible to me and the rest of us,” recalled So’oto. “For players, there is nothing that pumps you up more than having a packed stadium with loud fans there to support you. It really speaks to how great our fans are and how great the support for the team is to have them all come out on such a miserable day to support a team that is [2-5] at the time. It’s something that I’ll never forget.”
“It was absolutely incredible to see that for all of us, and I really think that helped us turn the season around,” added Ashworth.
Now that they’re faced with their final game at LES, the memories come back a bit. Ashworth’s fondest memory might be his long touchdown pass from Max Hall against Utah State last year, which was his first collegiate touchdown.
“That was awesome,” he recalled. “It was a long pass, about 50 yards, and Max came up to me after and told me that I deserved it because of how hard I’ve worked. That felt great and it’s probably something I’ll always remember.”
This year has been a struggle without question for a bunch of seniors used to winning. Take Ashworth for example, who on the heels of a very good offseason sustained a high ankle sprain against Washington to start the season.
“That was really tough and I haven’t felt really good until after the bye week,” he said about his injury. “It was tough because it really affected me and my confidence. As a senior you always want to finish strong, so that was just awful because it slowed me down so much. Fortunately I feel really healthy now and I’m playing with a lot more confidence because I know that I can do the things I’m used to.”
With the season turned around and both So’oto and Ashworth feeling relatively healthy, they are looking to go out strong this Saturday.
“Oh, I’ll be bringing it for sure,” said So’oto. “We want our fans to know how much we appreciate them and want to put our best effort out there for sure. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we want to go out with our best games.”
“BYU fans are the best,” added Ashworth. “They really get into it, which is great, and they’ve helped to inspire all of us. You always want to play your best at LaVell Edwards Stadium and I’ll be putting forth my best effort for sure on Saturday. I have a lot of fond memories there, we all do.”