One of the last members of the 1942 BYU Foootball Team — the first team to defeat Utah — passed away last week in Smithfield, Utah. Glen Oliverson, a single wing back at BYU, made the block that led to the winning touchdown in a 12-7 victory on Oct. 10, 1942. Glen played three season of varsity football at BYU in 1942, 1946-47. He served in the Navy during World War II, then returned home to play two more seasons at BYU.
In Januray 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing nearly 60 former players, coaches and administrators for a historical book on BYU football — among them was Glen Oliverson. At the time, he was nealy 90 years old, but was still very sharp, engaging and had a great sence of humor. It was a real treat for me to learn about that ledgendary game from someone who had played in it nearly seven decades ago.
Below is an excerpt from the book What It Means To Be A Cougar with Glen sharing his experience at BYU in his own words.
On behalf of BYU Athletics, we express our love and condolences to the Oliverson family. – Duff Tittle
KSL Feature on Glen Oliverson
Glen Oliverson Obituary
Halfback (1942, 1946-47)
I played football, basketball, baseball, and track in high school. I was recruited by the University of Idaho, Idaho State, BYU, and Utah State to play football in college.
It was the recruitment of Eddie Kimball, particularly, who encouraged me and wanted me to come to BYU. He came up to Preston, Idaho, to see me, and Floyd Millet was with him. We played catch out in our front yard. They really showed a lot of interest in me, and I think that was one thing that influenced me to go to BYU.
Also my high school coach Joe Johnson was very instrumental in influencing me to go to BYU. I think another reason was the Church. I was a staunch member of the LDS faith growing up, and BYU was sponsored by the Church. That’s probably what influenced me as much as anything.
I wasn’t necessarily a Cougar fan growing up—it was more Utah State. As a senior in high school I received a scholarship through the Vocational Education Act program to go to the University of Idaho. They were after me quit a bit to accept that scholarship. But, BYU ended up being the No. 1 choice.
Eddie told me, “We can offer you a scholarship and provide you with summer work, and a place to live.” So when I got out of high school, I went right down to Provo. My dad took me down. Of course, when I would come back to visit I had to hitchhike home.
Deer Creek Dam was being built up Provo Canyon and I worked on the crew at Deer Creek Dam. Wayne Soffe and Garth Chamberlain got jobs at Deer Creek and that’s where I spent my summer, up there with them. Wayne was an assistant coach at BYU but they didn’t have summer work for him, so he had to go find a job somewhere.
I came to BYU in 1941. I joined a social club my freshman year and was also the vice president of the freshman class. Through the football program I met a lot of fellows, and obtained a lot of close friends during that first fall at school. My closest friend was probably Thayne Stone. He was from Spanish Fork, and we became very close friends. Another close friend was Marcell Chatterton. He was a fellow who also accepted a scholarship at BYU.
The campus at BYU was friendly. I remember we had “hello week” the first week of school. When you were walking on campus and would pass people you would say, “Hello,” to them.
Probably the most important thing at BYU was the faculty that I took classes from. They were very fine people. I wasn’t a great student but I got passing grades. The teachers encouraged you to work hard and study.
Eddie Kimball was a great guy. He was a very fair coach. He told you what he expected of you and held you to it. I remember him saying a bunch of times to the squad, “We appreciate you for what you do.” Eddie always told you what you did right or wrong. If you played a good game he told you what you did good. If you didn’t he told you what you needed to improve on next time.
In 1942, the War was going on with Japan. Before the season started, Eddie joined the reserves. In the spring he was called in the Navy and received a good commission. He didn’t coach us that season; Floyd Millet did. In those days, Floyd was the basketball coach. He helped Eddie coach football, and Eddie helped him coach basketball. That’s the way it was.
My favorite football memory at BYU has got to be the victory at Utah in 1942. The victory over Utah was the most outstanding thing that happened to me that year.
We practiced hard and worked hard. The coaches told us at the beginning of that year if we were dedicated we could become a good football team. The week we were preparing to play Utah, we put forth extra effort to prepare ourselves. Utah had a pretty good football team, but we scored 12 points and they scored 7. We held them off two or three times from scoring.
I played linebacker on defense and blocking back on offense. We used a single-wing offense. The blocking back was the No. 2 back, up behind the guard. That was the position I played. I didn’t carry the ball. The player who scored the winning touchdown was Herman Longhurst, who was from Pocatello High School. I can’t remember who kicked the PAT. We scored, but there was quite a bit of time left for Utah to score. But we stopped them. I didn’t carry the ball—I was a blocker; but I made some tackles.
When the gun went off to end the game, all hell broke loose—up in the stands and down on the field. It was up at Utah. The student body came down on the field. I’m telling you it was a great celebration.
The patrons went over and pulled down the goal post—north and south. Then they took them to Provo and sawed them into small four-inch squares. The next Monday school was canceled and they had a big assembly. They gave all the football players a piece of the goal post. Some of the student body got some too.
I look back on that game, and think of that time and time again. You see BYU had never beaten Utah before that time. I’m not sure how many years the football program had been going before I arrived, but that was the first time we beat Utah.
I joined the Marine Corp Reserve program during that time, so I only played two years before the War. I stayed in school until I was called up, and eventually went in the Navy. I was trained in handling antiaircraft weapons. Most of my teammate joined the war effort. In fact, there was no football program at BYU after 1942 until the war ended.
After the War, Eddie came back and he installed the T-formation. I played halfback in the T-formation for two years. I carried the ball quite a bit. I was also one of the place kickers for PATs and kickoffs.
I became acquainted with my wife, Francine, after the War. After we got married, we lived in Wymount Village on campus. They brought in some War barracks to BYU and made them into apartments for the married couples. That’s where we lived.
I remember President Heber J. Grant came to BYU to a religious assembly. I remember the message that he gave really impressed me. He encouraged us to stay true to the faith, study hard, and work hard to complete our education.
BYU made me realize the importance of obtaining an education and preparing yourself with that education for your life’s work. I always wanted to coach, so I took classes in the education and PE program. I guess that’s what I remember most is that BYU helped prepare me to obtain my profession.
I graduated from BYU and then got a job coaching in Preston, Idaho, as an assistant to Joe Johnson. Eddie gave me a print out of all the plays we used at BYU, and I used them for the first two or three years I coached. I had some good years at Preston.
Being a Cougar means a great deal to me. I obtained a college education and played football that I enjoyed so much. Then after the War I got to play baseball too. I think the most important thing I could say about being a Cougar was that it provided me with an opportunity to do what I thought I could do when I was a kid, and hoped I could do growing up. The scholarship I had at BYU gave me the way to obtain my life profession.
There is definitely a sense of pride saying I played football at BYU. The university has a good reputation. It’s a Church school. When I got there as a freshman it didn’t take me very long to become a Cougar. After the War, Francine and I were there together and BYU provided us with the opportunity to do a lot of things in our lives.