30th reunion review of 1984 national championship
Reprinted from football Gameday program guide, September 12, 2015
In the offseason members of the 1984 national championship BYU football team gathered to celebrate the 30th reunion.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, president of BYU in 1984, was among the attendees along with over 20 former Cougars from that national championship team. Former quarterback Robbie Bosco emceed the event in the Cougar Room of LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“No graduating class has brought more honor to BYU,” Elder Holland said. “The real investment wasn’t that year (1984).”
Coach Edwards was there along with members of his brain trust like Mel Olson, Lance Reynolds, Ken Schmidt, Charlie Stubbs and Dennis Miller. Current BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae, an offensive lineman in 1984, took a break from recruiting duties to rejoin Polynesian teammates from ’84like Ladd Akeo and Glen Kozlowski, who flew in from Hawai’i and Chicago, respectively.
The Whittinghams were there, too, including former linebacker Cary and running back Freddie along with their mother Nancy, wife of late BYU linebacker coach Fred. Freddie is the current director of player personnel at Utah for his head coach brother Kyle. Joining them at the 30threunion was former BYU linebacker Alema Fitisemanu, now a recruiter at Utah.
Former NFL linebacker Leon White, MVP of the 1984 Holiday Bowl, came back to join defensive starters from the national championship squad like linemen Jim Herrmann and Shawn Knight and linebacker Marv Allen, now cardiologist on the board of directors at Utah Valley Hospital, and safety Steve Haymond and Korey Rasmussen, one of the many attorneys from that 1984 squad.
Rasmussen said former BYU quarterback coach Mike Holmgren, who went on to stardom in the NFL, told him his biggest mistake in 1984 was switching him from quarterback to safety. It was sacrifices like that of Rasmussen and Anae, who moved from center to guard to make room for future NFL starter Trevor Matich, that accounted for part of the unity of the 13-0 season.
“Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about our national championship,” Herrmann said. “We are the only anomaly in the last 30 years. No one can ever take that away from us. We are the original, only, first, true busters. The BCS was born because of us.” Kozlowski waxed nostalgic as the magical January evening continued and paid several tributes, including lauding Spanish Fork walk-on Dave Tuckett, who served 19 years as city attorney for nearby Payson and is now its city manager.
“I took it out on you in practice and you came back to guard me every day as a DB. I hated practicing against you,” Kozlowski said as he looked over from the podium towards Tuckett, a distant relation to former BYU athletic director Glen Tuckett, who also dropped by for part of the evening before attending the First Pitch Dinner that same night in Provo with former Major Leaguer Jeff Kent.
“I don’t think he knew my name,” defensive back Tuckett said of Kozlowski. “Koz was special. He didn’t look fast. I tried to push him hard in practice. I’m glad he said something. As a player he was sly, deceiving and it was hard to stay in front of him.”
Tuckett had a leadership scholarship to BYU and walked on as a freshman after serving a mission to Puerto Rico. Tuckett played two springs for the Cougars and rose from the seventh cornerback to third unit behind Mark Allen and Shane Shumway.
Tuckett even played quarterback on the scout team in preparation for the Air Force option.
“We never told the coaches that we (on the hamburger squad) knew when Bosco was going to run or pass,” Tuckett said. “If he looked at his linemen when he was taking the snap, it was a run, but if he looked at the linebackers it was a pass. Our opponents never figured that out.”
Tuckett never traveled with the team until the Holiday Bowl in San Diego other than a trip the junior varsity made to the Air Force Academy. He got a national championship ring that his son wore a couple times as a neckerchief slide in Scouts.
“In practice, the cornerback had to take on the pulling guard like Louis Wong on sweeps,” Tuckett said. “I was sore after those practices.
“I had a locker next to Leon White,” Tuckett said. “He (White) was a total gentleman.”
Tuckett abandoned an opportunity to perhaps break into the starting lineup as Haymond had done and went on to attend BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School with teammates Jimmy Edwards and Rasmussen.
Photos of five players like Mark Allen who are deceased from that 1984 team along with nine late administrators of that era were on display the evening of the reunion, including DB Mark Allen and equipment manager Floyd Johnson.
Kozlowski is one of the most remembered players from 1984.
“Memories are great. I wish I would have told Adam (Haysbert) and Mark (Bellini) how great they were,” Kozlowski said. “LaVell brought the best out in all of us.” Kozlowski recalled how he and his teammates sang the song “tiny bubbles” all the way home from an 18-13 narrow win at Hawai’i.
“I remember somebody hollering ‘national championship,’ and I thought there’s no way that’s going to happen,” Edwards recalled hearing as his team flew back from a season opening 20-14 upset at No. 3 Pittsburgh.
Untested, Bosco started that game by throwing three consecutive incomplete passes after Blaine Fowler completed a halfback option pass to Kozlowski for 38yards on BYU’s first possession at Pitt. However, Bosco completed the final attempt of his 43 passes at Pitt for a 50-yard touchdown to Adam Haysbert. Now a preacher in Philadelphia, Haysbert flew in for the festive evening in Provo.
“We went into the ’84 season very inexperienced and unproven,” Edwards said. “A lot of the Eastern press came to Provo to see what we were all about and virtually every one of them went back and wrote positive articles.”
Edwards again recalled the touchdown-saving timed leap at Hawai’i by safety Kyle Morrell on third down after Marv Allen had snuffed out the previous two plays on first and goal in the fourth quarter.
“It is one of the great defensive moves that I’ve ever seen, “said Edwards of Morrell’s airborne somersault-diving tackle on the goal line.
“Visiting here tonight with you, I’m more proud of you now than when you were playing,” Edwards said.
There was a gimp (quarterback Bosco) on the field and a TV blimp in the sky as BYU went on to defeat Michigan, 24-17,in Holiday Bowl VII. The Cougars won every game in 1984,something no one else could claim, and under the existing rules, they ended up being voted No. 1 as the national champions—cause (“Koz”) to celebrate and continue to have reunions.
“My biggest fear was that someone would think too seriously about whether we deserved it or not,” Edwards concluded as he reflected on the 1984 national championship 30 years ago.
“It’s so interesting that people question whether we should have been No. 1,” Tuckett said. “It is difficult to go unblemished and we rose to the occasion.
“One of the forgotten stories from that 1984 team was running back Robert Parker, who ended up running the third leg of a 4 x 100 relay team with Ken Henderson, Paul Scarlett and Peter Milanzi to twice break the school record in 1986.Parker, a running back from Alabama via a junior college in Oklahoma, scored two touchdowns during that 1984 season and came back last January to help celebrate.
Fifty years ago UCLA ended the nation’s leading 25-game win streak with a 27-24 win in Provo over BYU in game two of the1985 season.
The Cougars came back the next week to silence critics with a 31-3 victory over Washington, a team some thought should have been No. 1 in 1984.
In the middle of the 1985 season, UTEP ended BYU’s 25-game conference win streak with a 23-16 upset in El Paso. The Cougars had not lost a night game since the Holiday Bowl of 1979 against Indiana.
BYU football wrapped up its first week of fall camp with its fifth practice on Saturday morning.