While most walk-ons only have to go through the rigorous walk-on process once, Kayle Buchanan is now in his third round of walking on to the team. This time, however, he looks to stick and make a significant contribution in the upcoming season.
“I came here as a freshman in the fall, tried out for the team and got cut,” recalled Buchanan. “I then tried out for the team again in the winter and got cut again back in 2000 and in Crowton’s first year as head coach.”
Although he got cut twice, Buchanan felt he could play with the rest of the team and went in to talk to Coach Crowton. “I just told him that I knew I could play and that I could help the team if he just gave me another chance, so he let me and I went through spring practice before leaving on my mission,” said Buchanan.
Buchanan then embarked on his two-year mission with the thought that he was part of the BYU football program. He assumed that the coaching staff would remember him and he would pick up where he left off upon his return. Things did not quite go according to plan, however. As Buchanan explained: “They didn’t know who I was. I looked familiar to Coach Mitchell, but he didn’t remember my name, so I had to go through the entire process of walking on again. I don’t know if they saw potential again or maybe they just had a good sense of humor and decided to give me another shot.”
Buchanan now finds himself with a firmly secured place on the 2-deep cornerback roster, rotating with Chris Hale at the right corner spot this spring. “I’m just so thankful to have this chance to play and to hopefully contribute,” said Buchanan. “This is what I’ve tried so hard for, and to have my efforts rewarded is really a dream come true.”
Buchanan had the benefit and encouragement of watching other walk-ons succeed before him. “I’m just so thankful to have guys like Brandon Heaney and Micah Alba who went through the same stuff I’ve been through,” he said “They’ve been great examples and I’ve just tried to learn from them and do everything they did in order to be successful here at BYU. So far so good I guess.”
Buchanan has had to wait a bit before going again this spring after a rare staph infection in his hand. “Three weeks ago my hand started swelling up and we found out I had a staff infection,” said Buchanan. “It’s something that can be lethal and sometimes you have to cut off the bone if it gets to far. Luckily they caught it early, so I’m fine now.”
Now Buchanan is recovering and trying to catch up to his teammates in regard to conditioning and form. “It’s tough,” Buchanan admitted. “I’m just trying so hard to get where I need to be. I hated so much being out. I helped give pointers and teach and all that, but you don’t really feel part of the team until you’re out there, so I’m just so thankful to be out there again.”
Buchanan has definitely seen a change in the team since Coach Mendenhall took over the head-coaching slot. “We’re just more together as a team now,” he said. “We’re doing all the same things condition wise both on offense and on defense. It’s great because we’re now more just one team instead of an offense and a defense.”
One aspect where the new togetherness between offensive and defensive players is making itself manifest is with the cornerbacks and receivers giving each other pointers during and after practice.
“We have sort of a deal going back with the receivers,” Buchanan explained. “We give them pointers and they in turn help us out and tell us when we’re doing things wrong. When they’re tipping off what patterns they’re going to run, then we tell them and when we’re tipping off our coverage too early or turning our hips before the snap, then they tell us and help us out with that. Guys like Brett Cooper, Michael Reed, Matt Smith and the others are really helping us with that. If I see them lean too soon, then I‘ll tell them and when we’re turning our hips too soon, then they tell us.”
Buchanan feels this mutual assistance and the new full team unity will manifest itself in a way that players, coaches and fans can all appreciate: wins. “We’re all really good friends,” said Buchanan. “We’re just together a lot more this year on offense and on defense. It’s going to turn out great because we’re helping each other more than ever before I think. We’re going to win games and get BYU back to where it needs to be. I have little doubt about that.”