Bryan Kariya: Relentless, Quiet Competitor

(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

BY MEGAN STAUFFER
BYU Athletic Media Relations
 

“I want it for the team, I want it for our coaches and I want it for myself,” senior running back Bryan Kariya said. “I want success.”

That statement fits for more than just football, but everyday life. Hailing from Kaysville, Utah, the 6-foot-0, 217 senior didn’t have to go a long way to find his opportunities for greatness.

“I never doubted BYU was where I needed to be, regardless of football,” Kariya said. “My education has always been one of my top priorities. I knew BYU was a tough school and had a great academic reputation, so I knew this was the place to go if I wanted to go far.”

While football is high up on the list of his priorities, it wasn’t the reason for attending BYU. In fact, they didn’t even recruit him out of high school.

“I wasn’t highly recruited for football, and I wasn’t placing much emphasis on it,” Kariya said. “I focused on what would be best as far as my education goes, but after getting accepted to BYU, I was approached by the coaches.

“They encouraged me to walk on the team. It wasn’t until then I started getting other offers to play from different schools, but I had already made my decision to come to BYU for academics. Being able to play football was just the icing on the cake.”

Opting to serve a mission after a redshirt year, Kariya took a two-year hiatus from playing football.

“You just can’t even pinpoint all the advantages that come from serving a mission,” Kariya said. “I gained a sense of focus from serving the people of Australia. It’s not about you and the sacrifices you’re making, it’s about the welfare of others.”

Kariya related his experiences in the mission field to a team mentality.

“You have to give up a lot, even if just personal glory or getting ahead,” said Kariya. “Everything you do is for the benefit of the team. Like the mission, you have to learn to work well with others.

“Most of the guys have been playing football their entire lives, but you still have to learn to cooperate well with people. Compromise and cooperation is a big deal in the mission field, but also on the football field.”

Fortunately, Kariya didn’t miss a step and was able to start his collegiate career strong with his mission experiences to add as an advantage.

Another advantage Kariya feels he has is the support from his family. Kariya’s father, Bob Kariya, is a grad from the University of Utah Law School. Thus, Kariya rooted for Utah his entire life until his sister, Kiersten, made a decision that would ultimately change his perspective. She chose to attend BYU.

“It wasn’t too much of a surprise Bryan and Kiersten chose to attend BYU,” Bob Kariya said. “We never persuaded them in any specific direction, we just allowed them to make the choice for themselves. As parents, we’ve tried to teach our kids they just need to do their best and that includes decision-making. I know they are grateful for their choices and so am I. Having Bryan play football has just been an extra that has added joy to his experience as well as ours.”

Another big supporter is his wife, Samantha Kariya. Samantha is the head of the wives club linked to the BYU football team. 

“The wives club is the best part of football and I definitely feel grateful to be a part of it because you are so involved,” Samantha Kariya said. “A lot of our husbands don’t like to talk about football outside of the team so we’re definitely not involved through our husbands. This is how we stay included in this huge part of our husbands’ lives.”

The wives club was started six years ago by  Mendenhall in an effort to get the players’ wives involved in the team.

“I’m grateful for the coaches and the help of their wives in this club,” Samantha Kariya said. “It’s a lot of work to constantly keep tabs on who’s getting married and being sure to invite the new wives into the club. This year, we have over 40 wives involved.”

The wives club does more than travel to games and keep involved with football, they also do charity work. This year, the wives club is putting together a cookbook where the coaches, players and wives contribute their favorite recipes. After the book is created, it will be sold and the money will be donated to charity.

“I love the opportunity my wife has to be so involved with what I’m doing,” Kariya said. “Sam is a hard worker and does so much in supporting me and the other wives as well.  It’s great that they get to be a part of what we do.”

Kariya and his wife have been able to do a lot together, despite the demands of football. In 2005 before they were married, they traveled to Africa for humanitarian services with an organization called “Koins for Kenya” in which Samantha’s parents, Mike and Cindy Workman, are heavily involved. (See story below)

They now have plans to visit China following the football season.

“I’ve always wanted to visit China,” Kariya said. “I’m fortunate enough to be able to speak Mandarin because of my mission and studies at school, so I’d love to be able to go and spend some time there with my wife. Our plan is to finish out the season and then try and get and internship in China before I start up dental school.”

Kariya just graduated this semester with a BA in Chinese and is currently applying to dental schools all over the country. Kariya has always been interested in the health field and with a brother-in-law involved in dental work, it didn’t take much convincing to pursue a similar career.

Another draw into dental school for Kariya is the opportunity to do humanitarian work. Programs like “Operation Smile” work to fix cleft palates on people in foreign counties including China. Overall, he is looking for the opportunity to travel and help others in need.

“I would love to be able to use the language I’ve been studying and would also love to have the opportunity to continue my connection with Asian countries,” Kariya said.

Karyia is half Japanese by blood from his father’s side of the family.  His great-grandparents came to America around 1915 and worked as farmers and on the railroads. They continued to marry Japanese people, thus his father is full Japanese.

“I believe our heritage is a way we perceive ourselves,” Bob Kariya said. “My father and grandfather were very hard workers and my brothers and I have definitely tried to learn and grow as they did. I can see how Bryan has picked up that mentality from the examples set in our family history. He is good about knowing our family history and applying it to who he is today.”

Kariya takes pride in his Japanese heritage and believes  it has challenged him to work hard, especially in school and football because those are his current commitments. He feels fortunate to have learned Mandarin and has had the opportunity to grow closer to his Asian lineage.

Another aspect of his life Kariya takes pride in is his accomplishments on field.

“I’ve been around a while and have played three seasons straight,” Kariya said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play in really big games for BYU. I’ve played in bowl games, but I’ve also played in games were we were beat really bad. I’ve gained experience and learned lessons from both the good and the bad. It’s amazing all the different things you go through in collegiate football.”

With the historic move of BYU choosing to be independent, this year has proved to be a change up for Kariya as well as the team.  While the fundamental goal of winning is the same, Kariya looks forward to making his mark on the team as well as the new conference.

“Our goal is always to be undefeated but more than that, we want to be completely unified as a team,” Kariya said. “If we can achieve complete unification, then any goal we have is within our grasp.”

With their new independence, the football team has set many goals for this much anticipated season. In his final season playing football for BYU, Kariya has spent a lot of time creating personal goals he wants to accomplish before leaving the team.

“I want to be a solid, reliable player my teammates can count on,” Kariya said. “I want to be consistent on blocking and I always want to run the ball hard. I had 500 yards last year and I want to be better than that.

“I know I may not always be the go-to guy in some situations, but it’s my goal to get as many yards as I can every time I touch the ball.”

When it comes to expectations Kariya has for the team, overall he wants the team to play with no regrets. He believes if everybody plays their hardest, then not only will they play well, but they can’t deny their efforts at the end of the day.

“Playing hard and stressing the fundamentals will always result in a win,” Kariya said. “If things don’t go the way we planned, then we should still be able to hold our heads up if we gave an honest, full effort."

While the senior class is a solid one, there are a lot of younger guys on the field this season and Kariya looks at this as an opportunity to share his insight to the game and lead by example.

“Knowing what I know and the experience I’ve gained over the years has helped me in many ways, but especially my composure,” Kariya said. “This is another way I hope to help the team, by my composure. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the emotions when things get chaotic, but I just try to be a leader on the field by staying calm, yet up beat and extremely positive.”

As the season rolls on, Kariya is reminded each day his time on the team is growing short and he needs to take the time to soak in all of the moments he’ll miss after he’s moved on.

“The number one thing I will miss is hanging out with my friends every day,” Kariya said. “I’ve tried to enjoy the experience by making sure I’m having fun at every practice and meeting. I want to come away from this season with the best of memories. I’ve already made so many great ones, now I have one last opportunity. I don’t want any regrets.”

Kariya’s family members share a similar attitude regarding his football career and his collegiate experiences coming to a close.

“My husband is committed in every aspect of his life,” Samantha Kariya said. “If he has committed to something, then he will never quit and I would never stand in the way of that. I’ve loved watching him play and cheering him on and could not be more proud of his accomplishments.

“Overall, I want Bryan to feel like he has contributed to the team in the best way possible so he can leave feeling like he did his part because I know he’ll never forgive himself if he doesn’t. I have no doubt he’ll put out all of his effort into every game and practice.”

Kariya’s father has been with him since the very beginning when he helped coach his Little League team. He’s always been a great supporter and has no doubt of the potential Kariya has as well as his ability to follow through on the goals he sets for himself.

“I remember the exact moment when I realized Bryan’s knowledge and abilities in the game had surpassed me,” Bob Karyia said. “He was in the eighth grade when I first saw the real potential he held. He knew what he needed to do to be better to enhance his performance. I just took a step back and allowed him to push forward with his own understanding. I knew he was doing all the mental preparation he needed to be successful.

“I’m amazed how far he’s come, but not surprised. The only advice I could give is no matter what you do in school, sports, career, family and religion, the most anyone can ask is do your best. My recommendation is just to keep that in mind and you will inevitably find success in all your endeavors.”

 

Koins For Kenya

Koins for Kenya is an non-profit organization dedicated to aiding communities by development and education in order to create a self-sustaining society within the village of Mnyenzeni in the district of Kwale.

Mike and Cindy Workman, in-laws to BYU running back  Bryan Kariya (see story on page 4),  have been on the board of directors ever since the foundation began 10 years ago. They travel to Kenya once a year and take groups of people along with them as expeditions.

“I went to Africa about 10 years ago with Bret Van Leeuen, who is now the chairman of the board, and we talked about creating our own humanitarian project,” Cindy Workman said. “What’s really special about this organization is all the work we do is ongoing. The projects we begin are meant to last long term and improve the overall quality of life for these people.”

While the Koins for Kenya foundation emphasizes in education, there are many other factors.

“We have been able to accomplish so much for these people in the past ten years,” Mike Workman said. “We have worked on the overall enhancing of 16 schools, both primary and secondary. The best part is not only are we doing this for the people, but we are teaching them how to do it all themselves. While our main focus is education, that alone encompasses so much.

“Once the children reach our equivalent of the eighth grade, they have to start paying for their education. The country is such an impoverished one, many can’t even hardly pay for food let alone education. Because of this, we have developed a few ways to make the costs of living easier.”

One of the programs developed by Koins for Kenya is the student scholarship program where students who are deserving or students who are in dire need of help, receive the funding to attend school. This consists of $350 a year per student. Right now, the foundation is currently sponsoring over 100 students.

Another way Koins for Kenya helps with the costs of education in these schools is by their efforts to employ the parents of the students. By teaching the fathers carpentry and building skills, they can work on the improvement of schools and buildings in their communities year round, and by doing so they receive monetary compensation provided by the foundation.

Because the schools require uniforms, they have taught the women and mothers of the students to sew and have provided them with machines to do so.

“Our goal is to help create a self-sustaining society,” Mike Workman said. “There’s a dual purpose in everything we do. We’re not trying to give handouts, but rather hand-ups.”

The foundation is currently working on a farming project in the village to help with consistency in the supply of food and well as healthy crops.

“We are currently working on a farming situation working with water and crops,” Cindy Workman said. “We will be digging wells and creating a dam in order to help with the water supply. We are also doing an experimental farm where we will be trying to grow different crops to see what will work better.”

There are multiple ways to help and give aid to the Koins for Kenya foundation. Donations, service in the foundation within the states and traveling  on an expedition to Kenya are some of these opportunities.

To learn more about what’s been accomplished through this amazing foundation and ways you can help, visit www.koinsforkenya.org.