“My experience here has been pretty good,” reserve sophomore linebacker Gary Lovely said a few days after he scored a touchdown for the special teams unit against Air Force last Saturday.
His brother Greg is also a reserve cornerback for the Cougars.
“I love it out here. Guys out here be treating me really good. The social area is good; it’s not as good as Cali, but it takes some getting used to,” he added.
Lovely admitted the football part was tough at first, but is now fully converted to defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall’s unique defensive schemes.
“Oh, the defense is incredible, just incredible. When you think of the 3-3-5, you think, ‘How do they stop the run?’ Stopping the run is no problem for us, really. We’re the best in the conference in stopping the run and no one can really pass on us … if we tighten up our defense and everybody gets on the same page, we’ll gel together like you saw in the Air Force game,” Gary told TotalBlueSports.com.
Lovely further commented that “I had confidence, but I had a lot of trouble learning all the material since I came in July. I was behind everybody who came in early January like Justin Luettgerodt and a couple of the other guys.”
“I’m just learning the defense and looking forward to playing Utah. We have San Diego State coming up and I’m definitely not looking past them.
“We have something to prove and that‘s where we‘re going to get our respect. Nobody (news media) in the conference respected us and they rated us fifth (preseason)? We‘ve got to much talent here for that, especially with the Lovely brothers being here,” Lovely said with a chuckle.
Although his current playing assignments are primarily on special teams, Lovely relishes the thought of competing for a starting linebacker spot next season.
“I’m not sure if they want to move me safety or not, but right now I’m just an outside backer with coach Lamb. Anything can happen right now. I’m about 210 right now; if I can through on at least 20 pounds in the off-season, anything can happen. You can see me at the safety at 230. I still run a low 4.5 (forty),” Lovely continued.
With BYU’s sensational kicker deservedly Matt Payne garnering most of the focus on special teams, Lovely talked about the rare opportunity during the Air Force game to add his name in the record books.
“I knew they would come out with our (punt) formation which we took from Wolford College, where they line up in the spread punt. My objective was to get into the wedge and basically make sure the punter doesn’t get out.”
Going through his normal progressions, Lovely saw the opportunity to make something special happen in the blink of an eye.
“I busted my butt coming off the line and I see Riley (Weber) coming off the edge, full speed. There was a bad snap and I said, ‘Ooh we can get this, we can get this!’ The punter starts to take off, Riley hits him, (Dennis) Pitta comes from out of nowhere and all I saw was the ball right in front of me. I catch it and ran into the end zone.“
Lovely added, “I was thinking, ‘If I catch this, no one is going to stop me. The next thing that went through my head was, ‘Where’s my special teams guys to help me get this, go celebrate with them, then take it to the sidelines and celebrate with everyone. It was a team effort all the way.’”
While news of Gary’s touchdown quickly spread to family in California, his mother, Lynn Lovely, missed her son’s first Div. 1 touchdown. “She didn’t have (ESPN) Game Plan, but Justin’s (Luettgerodt) parents called her and then she called me and it was crazy. Everybody back home were excited and they can’t wait to see me during this bye week,” Lovely said.
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