Mahe specializes in making opponents miss him on the field, a skill that makes him very noticeable as he jukes downfield. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Reno "the biggest little receiver in the country" Mahe is one of the smallest men on the football field.
He is listed at 5-11, 185 pounds, though he plays like a man much bigger than his actual size. He has been one of the most recognized stars for BYU football over the last few years.
Even Mahe says the one word that would describe him would be short
Mahe has come up anything but short on and off the field. In his freshman year, he ran for 481 yards and had seven touchdowns. His sophomore year at Dixie State, Mahe led the nation in receiving with 57 receptions for 1,387 yards and 19 touchdowns. Last year Mahe recorded a team-leading 91 receptions for 1,211 yards and had nine touchdown receptions.
"Over the last two years, Reno has gained a better understanding of his role in the offense. He has gained a better understanding of how to attack plays, and how to react to defenses. Sometimes he probably thinks too much," said Mike Borich, BYU offensive coordinator.
Borich said Mahe is the kind of player that wants the ball on every play. Mahe made a commitment at the beginning of the season that he would not be selfish and demand the ball if that meant helping the team to do better. Borich said sometimes the team needs him to get the ball more often so he can make big plays.
"If he could get on the right team and fit into an offense, I think he would do well in the NFL," says Borich, who ought to know after coaching in the pro ranks.
Mahe said his decision to come to BYU was so he could get the ball on offense.
"I was either going to go to BYU or Utah. I actually verbally committed to go to Utah. When I took my recruiting trip to Utah I got the feeling they wanted me to play defense, and I didn't want to play defense. I wanted the ball. That is the reason I chose to come to BYU," said Mahe.
Mahe said the most memorable game he has played in was against Utah last year. He had five receptions for 94 yards, just six days after having his appendix removed. The rivalry between the two schools, the conference championship on the line, and the appendectomy were just some of the challenges Mahe has faced and overcome.
In 1998 Mahe was forced to leave BYU for Honor Code violations. He spent time at Utah Valley State College and Dixie State. It was during that time that Mahe gained a greater perspective on football and on life.
"When I was 19 years old, football was life to me. When I got kicked out of BYU and had football taken away, I realized what I had lost. That challenge helped me to see where I was at in my life," said Mahe.
After he finished his season at Dixie, Mahe was recruited by several Pac-10 schools. A family member wanted him to go to USC, but Mahe wanted to stay close to the Church. He wanted to be around an environment where there was a strong Mormon culture, so he decided the best fit for him was BYU.
Mahe's football career has helped him realize that in life there are losses along the way, and you have to learn from them and go on and face the next challenge.
"When Reno's high school team lost the state championship game, he was the only person smiling. He says he has too much fun playing the game not to smile," Reno's mother Eva said.
"I am exactly like my dad (Sateki), only more Americanized," said Reno. "My dad still has a lot of Tonga in him. I look a lot like my dad (see story at the bottom of this article)."
His mother says Reno, who drives his father's purple 350 GTA, helps other people realize how to have fun in life. That characteristic is one that people around Mahe can't help but notice.
Daniel Coates, a wide receiver and friend of Mahe's, said even when the coaches are having a bad day, Reno knows how to cheer everybody up.
"He can get away with doing things that lighten the mood that the rest of us couldn't do, just because he is always happy," said Coates.
Happiness is something that Mahe feels like he can find wherever he goes. When asked about the joy that playing professional football would bring him, he shrugged off the suggestion.
"I just want to be able to support my family without having to sacrifice too much time away from them," said Mahe. "I could do any job that would let me do that; I can make anything enjoyable."
That attitude is what has helped Reno Mahe emerge as a leader on the BYU football team. Coach Borich said being a leader is an adjustment for Mahe because he is such a soft-spoken person.
"Reno tends to lead more by his example and how he plays, than to scream and yell at the players," said Borich.
Coates said some seniors want to put freshmen in their place; they don't want the new guys to take their positions. He said Reno is different. Coates said Mahe took him along and introduced Coates to all of his friends and made him really feel like family.
Family is the most important thing in Mahe's life. One of the happiest moments in his life was when he was sealed to his wife Sunny in the temple. His wife is a star volleyball player for BYU, but she is redshirting this season because she and Reno are expecting a baby next month. Mahe said he is excited to have a new addition to his little home. He hopes to settle down near Salt Lake City, where his family lives, or Texas, where his wife's family is from.
Mahe's parents have always tried to support their sons at games. His mother traveled to his first college game in Alabama, but didn't go into the stadium. She has a hard time watching her son get hit. She listened to the game on the radio outside of the stadium.
"If he makes it to the NFL, I won't be able to watch his games on television," said Eva Mahe. "I'll have to read a book instead, because it would be too hard to watch him get hit by those big guys."
Even when Mahe was playing little league football, his mother would try to keep herself occupied so she would not have to see him get tackled.
Avoiding tackles is one of Mahe's best skills. Coach Borich said Mahe has exceptional quickness and great running skills, but what is most valuable, is his ability to run after he catches the ball.
"He doesn't play like a small receiver," said Borich. "He is able to cover a lot of ground for being such a little guy."
His mother noticed that at an early age Reno was "always moving and could never sit still. He is still that way."
Playing sports was the perfect remedy for his energy. With all this energy, his teammates credit Mahe for being able to react calmly in game situations.
"He has a great mind for the game and can slow everything down," said Coates. "You combine that ability with his great hands, and you have got a great football player."
Mahe doesn't wear receiver gloves in practices, and rarely wears them in games. Unless it is raining, Mahe will always go without receiver gloves. Coates said it is rare to see receivers these days that don't wear the gloves.
Along with the natural ability Mahe has, his coaches say he is willing to work for what he wants. Coach Borich said he doesn't just want something, but he will want it and then work as hard as he needs to and do what it takes to get it. He said Mahe has great determination. With that determination, it could help him get a spot on a team in the NFL.
Until that time comes, Mahe is content on getting an education. Although he is a sociology major, Mahe thinks he could excel at mathematics if he had the time and patience to pursue it.
"I'll be grateful I got a degree in sociology, but I think I could do more. I think sometime down the road I should get more schooling," said Mahe.
He also recognizes the help football has been to him in getting an education at BYU. Mahe calls himself an athlete-student, rather than a student-athlete. He said he likes playing football much more than sitting in classes. He realizes that one comes with the other in college though.
To unwind from the busy lifestyle of being a husband, student, and athlete, Mahe's favorite thing to do is watch television shows and movies. His favorite show lately is the comedy Cheers. He said the theme song, "you want to go where everybody knows your name and they are always glad you came" is the best part. Anyone who knows Mahe will agree that he is always happy. His smile lights up any room he enters and most people know when he is around.
"I am a happy person and I like being around fun people," said Mahe.
He said he has a hard time being around negative people and people that don't like to smile. If there is a frown or unhappy person nearby, beware. Mahe will try to make that person smile. And if you think Reno is a happy person, his mother says his wife Sunny is a happier person than Reno. She said Sunny and Reno are always laughing together.
"There is never a dull moment when Reno is around," said Coates.
Who Do They Look Like, Mother or Father?
Despite what you may have learned from the gene pool about the dominant gene of the X chromosome of DNA and us being a random mix of four grandparents' genes, here is our informal pre-season survey of BYU football players.
Wide receiver Reno Mahe (see story above) thinks he looks like his father, and he is among 62 percent of his teammates who think they more resemble their Pop. Two of the players have fathers involved heavily with the football team, Chris Hale and Lance Reynolds, Jr. Hale thinks he looks more like his mother Nancy than he does his father Val, BYU's director of athletics. Reynolds also thinks he looks like his mother, Leslie, rather than his father Lance, Sr., who is the offensive line coach.
The players were asked during physical exam time last August whether they thought they looked like their mother or their father.
Some of the players are named after their father and say they look like their Dad, including Mike Sumko and Pat Williams.
Several players say they look like their Mom, but are named after their Dad, including C.J. Ah You (Charlie) and the "J" stands for Junior, not Joyce; and James Allen. Other Cougars "like father, like son" are Nick DiPadova, Gary McGiven, and Lance Reynolds who are also named after their Dads, but say they look like their Moms. Hanale, which means Henry in Hawai`ian, but Hanale Vincent's proper name is Henry IV.
One of the players who could not respond to our survey was Bryan Kehl, who never met his biological parents. Kehl along with his brother Ed, who played in 1996-98 for BYU, are part of six children adopted into that 11-member Salt Lake City family of Gary and Nancy Kehl.
Opinions vary. At the bottom of pileups in football games, players sometimes hear a derogatory description of how they look like their mother. And in the Bible we are told we are created in the image of God. Despite the division, aren't we glad they are all on the same team?
I Look Like My Dad
Current Player Dad's Name
90 Aissac Aiono, TE Alieta
22 Micah Alba, CB Rene
91 Nick Anderson, DL Ardean
Ben Archibald, OL Lynn
39 Bryant Atkinson, LB Scott
8 Matt Berry, QB Robert
46 Colby Bockwoldt, LB Rod
3 Joshua Brandon, S Louis
37 Jon Burbidge, S Norwin
52 Brent Carlson, LB Chuck
2 David Christensen, WR Stephen
17 Brett Cooper, WR Sam
5 Bret Engemann, QB Karl
27 Alex Farris, S Wes
96 Jeremy Gillespie, TE Jeff
84 Andy Hadfield, TE Donald
Nathan Hall, OL Stephen
30 Jared Harper, RB Paul
73 Isaac Herring, OL David
23 O'Neil Howell, CB David
Justin Jory, TE James
Ammon Kaonohi, WR Godfrey
59 Ryan Keele, OL Ed
93 Nathan Kolbaba, OL Scott
15 Jason Kukahiko, WR Glen
28 Steve Later, RB David
7 Levi Madarieta, LB Mike
43 Michael Madsen, S Lowell
20 Reno Mahe, WR Sateki
61 Naki Maile, OL Maaty
35 Ammon Mauga, LB Herman
67 Gary McGiven, OL Gary
14 Todd Mortensen, QB Fred
89 Spencer Nead, TE Nick
31 Kip Nielsen, CB Walt
38 Matt Payne, K Gordon
99 Moa Peaua, DL Mani
95 Ifo Pili, DL Falemao
55 Jeff Rhea, OL Clint
79 Dustin Rykert, OL Dennis
78 Brian Sanders, OL Mark
88 Ryan Slater, WR Marvin
25 Mike Sumko, CB Michael
58 J.R. Thulin, OL Sidney
32 Marcus Whalen, RB William
26 Rodney Wilkerson, WR Randy
86 Pat Williams, WR Pat
36 Kyle Wilson, RB Steve
53 Bill Wright, LB John
76 Vincent Xanthos, OL Tony
I Look Like My Mom
Current Player Mom's Name
C.J. Ah You, DL Joyce
16 James Allen, CB Norma
12 Justin Anderson, WR Mary June
97 Justin Carlson, DL Cathy
74 Quinn Christensen, OL Pam
80 Toby Christensen, WR Kathy
17 Brian Christiansen,QB Laura
94 Jeff Cowart, DL JoAnn
92 John Denney, DL Sheri
50 Nick DiPadova, LB Linda
24 Tyson Dunham, P Jo Ellen
33 Aaron Francisco, S Lisa
4 Jernaro Gilford, CB Alberta
56 Ryan Gunderson, DL Gaye
23 Chris Hale, WR Nancy
34 Brandon Heaney, CB Lisa
21 Curtis Holder, RB Denise
70 David Johnson, DL Debi
19 Breyon Jones, WR Shelia
77 Daniel Marquardt, DL Betty Ann
29 Jared Meibos, S Lynann
10 Andrew Ord, WR Margaret
18 Lance Pendleton, QB Cherrie
49 Brady Poppinga, DL Vicki
42 Gabriel Reid, TE Tupu
48 Lance Reynolds, LB Leslie
62 Brandon Stephens, OL Louise
45 Chris Stevens, LB Telekaki
44 Mike Tanner, LB Denilles
57 Hanale Vincent, OL Brenda
47 Paul Walkenhorst, LB Janine
75 Scott Young, DL Diane