Betz (bottom right) is seen here with John Wooden (bottom center) at the Wooden Cup Award Ceremony.
PROVO -- Former BYU swimmer and assistant coach Billy Betz is no stranger to the spotlight in the friendly confines of the Richards Building pool, but recently Betz received national attention for his excellence both in and out of the pool as a recipient of the inaugural Wooden Cup award.
Chosen from a pool of national nominations, Betz is the only Division 1-A athlete selected. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was selected from the professional ranks. The Wooden Cup is presented by Athletes for a Better World and recognizes athletes who best display character, teamwork and citizenship.
"Billy Betz is one of the finest young men on planet Earth," said BYU men's swimming coach Tim Powers. "In all of my years of coaching great young men, he is a standout in every way. Not only does he epitomize the phrase 'student-athlete', but he is completely dedicated to lifting others to higher ground."
A graduate of Logan High School in Logan, Utah, Bill's senior season included swimming on the 400-freestyle relay team that broke the school record, and on the 800-freestyle relay team that broke both the school and Mountain West Conference records. His performances earned him National Swimmer of the Week recognition in March and selection to the All-Conference swim team in the 200 freestyle and 200-, 400- and 800-freestyle relay teams.
Throughout his swimming career at BYU, Betz was highly regarded by his teammates. He was selected as the team captain by his peers and is known for his quick smile and devotion to others.
"Billy has been a best friend to everyone on the team," Powers said. "I have never heard a derogatory word mentioned about Betz from swimmers or coaches on our team or on any team we competed against. Bill is synonymous with 'big brother, best friend, great guy.'"
Betz has also made significant contributions to the community outside of BYU. The Coca-Cola Community All-American Award recipient, Betz was recognized for his efforts in poverty-stricken communities in El Salvador, where he has spent one month during each of the last three summers and his entire Christmas holiday delivering medical supplies, performing vaccinations, suturing wounds and even delivering babies. In total, he has logged over 1900 hours performing such service.
"Billy is a guy who will volunteer for all kinds of service," Powers said. "He sees a need and takes it upon himself to handle the need."
Betz's journey started when, as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in El Salvador, he saw the desperate conditions in the medical clinics. He returned to the country soon after his mission with Help International. During that trip, Betz decided something more had to be done.
"It began with the desire to be in a situation where I could help," Betz said. "It's reward enough to help others but it's even better to be able to see the results."
Help is definitely one thing Betz has provided. During his second humanitarian trip to El Salvador, the Logan, Utah, native loaded a 15-passenger van with supplies, including a mammogram machine, X-ray machine, two respirators, hospital gowns, syringes, scalpels, bed pans, clothes, food and miscellaneous medical supplies at a cost of $3000, which he gladly paid. Betz and a friend then made the 6-day trip, despite breaking down four times, to deliver the supplies. Last summer, with the aid of the American Red Cross, Betz again made the journey south with a 650-pound operating table, a mammogram machine, a wheel chair, clothes and hygiene kits.
An end to Betz's global humanitarian efforts is nowhere in sight. He hopes his next project will take him to Africa to build schools. Wherever the destination, Betz believes he has found the way to go.
"I've learned a lot," he said. "The main thing is that it's through serving and giving -- even if you don't have a lot to give -- that you really find out who you are and what you want out of life. For me, that is true happiness."