It was hard to put a finger on exactly what it was, but the tour that Bobby Wolford took of BYU hit him harder than he hits Florida quarterbacks. His visit to BYU all the way from the Sunshine State basically knocked him wordless.
"I was blown away," he said. "In fact, it was even better than that. My experience there was past being blown away. After my tour I told myself, 'If they offer, I'm going to commit.'"
To his surprise, that's exactly what happened. Coach Mendenhall invited him back into his office, where he would receive the shock of his life.
"At first I was completely shocked!" Wolford said. "I was so shell-shocked, I couldn't believe it. I was just standing there in the middle of the room thinking, 'Oh my gosh!' I was thinking BYU is where I wanted to go before I got the offer, but when it finally happened, I just started thinking and got really excited and thought, 'Yes! This is where I want to go.' Coach Mendenhall told me, 'I'll give you some time to think about it.' I just looked at him and said, 'Coach, I want to commit right now.'"
With his grandmother by his side, Wolford stood there speechless with a BYU scholarship offer in hand.
"The highlight of my experience was when Coach Mendenhall handed me that piece of paper that said I had been offered," he recalled. "I think that was the highlight of my BYU experience. When I got the offer, I knew that BYU is exactly where I was going to go. My grandmother was with me and she was really excited. Coach Mendenhall is a really great guy and made it all possible."
In the world of corrupt college football programs and the coaches that head them, it was Coach Mendenhall's integrity, honesty and fatherly qualities that endeared him to the heart of Bobby Wolford.
"I can tell you this, Coach Mendenhall is a father figure and really cares about you as a person," Wolford said. "He wants the best for you just like your father does. He's not going to lie to you and is going to tell you exactly what you're going to get here, and why the school is so great and why it will change your life. What you see in Coach Mendenhall is exactly what you get. He's honest and straightforward and really is a great coach and father figure."
So, committing to BYU was a no-brainer for Wolford. He isn't your typical athlete, but one that loves the peculiarity of things, which is why he endeared himself to the likes of Navy, Princeton and Harvard. He lives approximately 1,800 miles away from Provo, Utah, but surprisingly enough, the distance between him and BYU didn't obscure his understanding of the unique qualities found at the school.
"I knew a little bit about the school already, but Coach Howell told me, 'You really have to experience the school to really know it and get an idea of what it really is,'" Wolford said. "I knew that BYU, being an LDS school, how spiritual it was going to be. There were things that I already knew and expected, and when I got on campus the atmosphere was exactly what I was looking for.
"The spirituality of the school I could tell was present and really is a great atmosphere. I could tell there was just something about the place that I told myself, 'Here is where I want to go.' Coach Howell said I was going to love it once I got out there and he was absolutely right.
"I fell in love with the place. The campus is beautiful and I learned a lot about the academics, but the number one aspect I loved was the spiritual aspect and I thought that was huge. I love how all the students and all the athletes and coaches follow high moral standards, and that's very important. A lot of other colleges and programs don't do that, but the atmosphere of BYU is really hard to explain. It's incredible."
Wolford, who comes from a strong Catholic family, understands that Coach Mendenhall and the BYU staff expect him to be a stronger member of the Catholic faith. He knows the staff will hold him accountable to live the moral standards of his faith and expectations of BYU.
"That's another reason and a main reason why I really love BYU. The spiritual aspect and accountability that comes with living your faith to the fullest I know will be expected of me.
"You know, even though I'm not a member of the LDS faith, there are similar beliefs that the Mormons and the Catholics believe in. I know that I'll be expected to live by those morals and I know that by being at BYU it will definitely make me become a stronger Catholic. That's one of the main reasons why I felt that BYU was the place for me."
While touring BYU's campus and meeting other scholarship hopefuls, Wolford saw the width of the religious scope represented at the camp.
"All the kids that were at the camp came from all over, and they came there, or are already there, for the same reasons," said Wolford. "They came there for an opportunity to be a part of the spiritual and unique aspects this school provides and expects of you. I met a lot of great football players at the camp that came there for that reason.
"I met all these different kids from different faiths. I met all these kids and not all of them were LDS. I met another Catholic, I met a Lutheran, and all these football players who came there because of the same thing. It's an incredible thing to see."
Like his younger brother John, Bobby watched a special video staring Cougar running back Joshua Quezada. The video explained why players of other faiths play at BYU to represent something greater than themselves and even the school itself. He and others also watched a video on flag bearers.
"What the flag bearer is when you come to BYU, you are committing yourself to something greater than yourself,” said Wolford. “BYU wants to win a national championship because it brings greater attention to honor and higher principles and glory to God. They showed us those two things to help us to understand the bigger picture and why so many players want to come to BYU. It's about something greater than themselves, and I want to be a part of that."
Amped up by his on-campus experience, Wolford immediately went about preparing for BYU after he returned home. He understands and believes that more is expected of him, and it's a responsibility that he takes to heart.
"As soon as I got home, I started working out," Wolford said. "I just got back and I'm going to be working out nonstop throughout the summer and into fall, then winter. I'm going to work out nonstop to prepare myself till I get back to BYU. I want to become as good as I can be so I cannot only compete against some very impressive linebackers that will be there, but also so I can be a part of what BYU stands for."
He found his golden ticket, and with clarity of thought recognized it in an instant. By committing to BYU, the hard-hitting Catholic linebacker from Florida knew he had found the perfect home.
"I would say if you want to go to a school that has high moral standards, if you're a kid that wants to grown morally within your own faith while playing the game you love, if you're a kid that wants to go to a great academic school and have the complete package, BYU is that place," Wolford said. "If you're a kid that wants to be around great coaches, if you're a kid that wants to grow in your faith and in your faith in God and be a part of something bigger, BYU is the place to be."