"I would be the paper copy boy if I had to"

Matt Putnam

It's been a long journey for senior defensive tackle Matt Putnam, who will receive playing time against Oregon State after missing all of fall camp and the first five games of this season because of academic ineligibility. While sitting out, he would have done anything just to be back on the team and a part of Coach Mendenhall's defense.

Matt Putnam had been out and replaced. From the sidelines, he was out on the outside looking in, but as he watched his teammates step up and take his place, he liked what he saw.

"When you lose a guy for that long, somebody has to step up and take care of business," Putnam said. "I think having Loni [Fangupo] come in and being able to take care of that job for a while, and then having all those guys get in shape and having me coming back just adds to the rotation. They get more rest and I get more rest and we've got that many good guys that can go full-bore."

Since rejoining his teammates, is there anyone that has impressed him?

"Graham Rowley has gotten really, really good," Putnam said. "Mike [Muehlmann] too has been really impressive with what he's been able to do, and then there's Loni, who's been ridiculous. He comes right off the ball and just destroys people and it looks like he's not even trying. He's just throwing people around. I'm glad there are people there that I can trust while I was taking care of things about myself."

Now Putnam will be a part of the defensive line rotation this weekend as the Cougars get set to play the Beavers of Oregon State.

"It's going to be a little bit different just because they're a little more pass-oriented," Putnam said. "Teams have started to realize that they're not going to run the ball down the middle. They've kind of given up on that. They'll try once or twice and know that's not going to work, and so they'll try and find something else to do. We've got a plan for that and try to find what other things they're going to try and do."

At 6 feet 6 inches and 270 pounds, Putnam is a tall defensive tackle. In thinking that Oregon State might choose to pass more than run, Putnam hopes to put his size to good use. If he can't reach the quarterback in passing situations, maybe he can use his wingspan to knock a few balls down.

"Yeah, I think this Saturday is my chance to do that because they throw the ball so much," Putnam said. "Just stick my hands up and get a couple. I've gotten hit in the face a couple of time and don't really have to do anything. I just stand there and have the ball hit me in the face, and it's like, ‘Oh, okay. I guess that works!'"

Oregon State's stats confirm that the Beavers pass more than they rush. OSU has rushed for 552 yards on the season, while passing for 1,399 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per pass.

"They just throw, throw, throw, and we're trying to prepare for that," Putnam said. "We're going to try and get as much pressure as we can on the quarterback. I mean, they'll try and run the ball because everybody does. The first goal is to try and establish the run. Shut that down and they'll just start throwing."

Putnam missed all of fall camp due to being academically ineligible. He was dismissed from the team and had to fight his way back to being readmitted and then eligible to rejoin the team. That goal was fully accomplished a few weeks ago.

"Yeah, I started practicing on the scout team the week of the Utah State game," Putnam said. "On Wednesday before San Jose I found out that I was eligible to play. I came out and started practicing with our defense and then played a ton more than I thought I was going to.

"I thought maybe I would be in like one or two play or something like that. I think I came in to practice and showed Coach that I still knew what I was doing. I went in that first play and got that tackle for a loss. I was kind of like, ‘Alright, I guess I'm good to go.' I played a ton more than I thought I would."

When Putnam returned to the team, there wasn't anyone happier to have him back than his coach, Steve Kaufusi.

"He was really happy to have me back," Putnam said. "I think all the coaches were proud of me and the effort that I put in to come back and be in the position I'm in now."

Putnam was so willing to rejoin his teammates that he told Coach Mendenhall that he didn't necessarily have to play, but could do other things just to be associated with the team.

"I told Coach Mendenhall that even if he didn't let me play, I just wanted to be here and would do anything to be here," Putnam said. "I just wanted to be around the guys and told him that I would be the paper copy boy if I had to just to be a part of BYU football somehow, so just to be able to play has been so incredible for me."

Although he wished he didn't have to go through the difficult journey, Putnam feels it has been rewarding.

"Obviously, I would have rather not have to deal with it," said Putnam. "It really has been a rewarding process – I mean, be completely out of school and be completely ineligible and then realize and then petition through and be able to fight my way back and be back and get back into school."

Putnam is currently only eight credits away from graduating and is happy to be able to get his degree as well.

Upon finding out that he would be able to rejoin the team this season, Putnam didn't know quite how to react.

"I didn't even know what to do," Putnam said with a smile on his face. "I was like, ‘Oh yeah, alright!' I kind of had a love-hate relationship with practice. I was like, ‘Yeah, I get to go to practice!' Then I was like, ‘Oh man, I have to go to practice!' because I was totally out of shape, so I knew it was going to be bad. I had to totally get back into shape, but it's totally fun being back out here."

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