Standing a Little Taller

(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

It may have taken an entire season, but fans eventually recognized with senior defensive back Brian Logan, a big heart was more important than a big body.

During his first ever rivalry game against the University of Utah in 2009, Logan experienced a crowd finally ready to embrace the 5-foot-6 and 185 pound cornerback.

As Logan lay on the ground with trainers rushing to his aid, painful cramps began to take hold in both of his legs. He had been having a terrific game and just wanted to continue playing but was totally drained mentally, physically and emotionally. The California native needed something to give him a boost.

Tears began to well up in his eyes as he heard the crowd begin to chant, “Logan! Logan! Logan!”

“That experience was incredible and it’s something I will take with me for the rest of my life,” Logan said. “I would say it would be in the top five moments ever for me.”

The player who had initially been deemed too small, and became a target for ridicule from fans, had become one of their favorites. A crowd of over 64,000 people gave strength and confidence to a player who wanted the support of fans more than anything.

Logan stood a little taller that day, and has done so ever since.

“Just looking back at the struggles I had in the beginning of the year and getting a couple of boos and people saying (the coaches) should put another corner in, it was tough,” Logan said. “It made me feel good to know I had them on my side and they were behind me 100 percent.”

He doesn’t pass the eye test at first with his short and compact frame. Through the first few games of the 2009 season it became apparent Logan was going to be a target for opposing teams to try and throw the ball toward, and literally overlook.

Logan says he has had to deal with his lack of height his whole life, so it is not really an issue. Whether it is 5-foot-6 and 180 pounds or 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Logan believes size is not the determining factor in what makes a player.

“I have always been the smallest on the team but I never thought anything of it,” Logan said. “I make up for it by learning technique, but I think the biggest thing is heart and desire.”

Several other football players, both college and professional, have been successful even though they were not the biggest on the field. Players like NFL Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders is just 5-foot-8 and 2007’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Bob Sanders, is also around Logan’s height.

“I just go out and play,” Logan said. “Obviously I know when I am facing taller opponents there are certain things I have to do.”

Just because he is short does not mean he is lacking in skill. Logan finished the season second in the nation in passes defended last year. Passes defended is calculated by adding the number of passes broken up and the number of interceptions, then dividing by the number of games played.

With an average of 1.31 passes defended per game, including 14 pass breakups and three interceptions, his performance was enough to garner Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-America honors.

“I still pinch myself that I am here,” Logan said. “I look at my name and see All- American and it is unreal.”

Because of his small frame, he has had to make up for it with speed, instincts and an uncanny ability to lay a fierce hit on someone. Fans can remember several big hits he has had since joining the team last year. Opposing teams have also learned there is more than meets the eye with Logan.

A former teammate of Logan’s at Foothill College played as a wide receiver for New Mexico during the 2009 season. He tried to warn his fellow receivers not to underestimate Logan even though he was not very big. They snickered at him and did not take his warning very seriously. Players started to change their tune as the game went on and grew to respect Logan as he totaled four tackles including two for a loss and one pass breakup.

“That ended up being my best game of the year in my opinion,” Logan said. “After the game they were like, man he’s fast, he can hit, I just got hit by him and it hurts!”

Even though he packs a punch, he was not heavily recruited. Logan eventually received an offer from Mountain West Conference foe, San Diego State University, and head coach Chuck Long. Naturally, he jumped at the chance to join any Division I program. Those plans unexpectedly changed when Logan’s offer from the Aztecs was no longer available since Long had been replaced by Brady Hoke.

Some of BYU’s defensive coaches were on the phone with SDSU when Logan’s situation was brought up and BYU decided to look into the player SDSU no longer wanted. The Cougars pounced on the chance to land the spirited corner.

“My high school coach brought me in the office and I started crying since SDSU was my chance to go to a D-I school,” Logan said. “Literally an hour later BYU called and offered me a scholarship.”

Logan admits he never really reached out to many top schools. He expected to find success playing for a smaller school with a lesser-known program. Coming to BYU was a bit of a dream come true.

“A top 25 program, I never would have thought someone my size, someone 5-foot-6 could be there,” Logan said. “Not in a million years.”

He first arrived in Provo in the spring, but was suffering from an injury that would keep him out of spring ball and team workouts. Without the support of the team around him, Logan struggled that summer.

“I was just going to school and being a student so that was really hard because I didn’t have any friends,” Logan said.

He had frequent conversations with his mom, who Logan always refers to as his best friend, and she told him to stay put in Provo and he would be able to make it.

Logan did stay, survived the summer and was able to begin workouts with the team as fall approached. He could not have been happier.

“I just immediately felt at home,” Logan said. “The team made it a good place for any newcomer.”

Teammate Brandon Bradley said although they did not know much about him, Logan was a welcome addition to the team.

“All of the coaches did a good job of letting us know he is a really good player and had a chance to play,” Bradley said. “He took hold of all the information we gave him and ran with it and ended up having a great season.”

Logan was another unique individual to add more chemistry to an already close group in the secondary. All of his teammates were excited to have the fun loving player in their team meetings and practices.

“He’s a great guy. He’s always smiling, always happy and always energetic,” Bradley said chuckling. “We call him the big kid, he even always has candy.”

Though often full of sugar and a bit of a goofball that is able to lighten

things up on occasion, he takes his football seriously and puts in all the effort he can towards playing.

Bradley, one of the other senior leaders of the BYU defense, looks up to Logan despite being about six inches taller. He expects him to just be himself, or what many teammates call him, “B Logan.”

“He has fun, plays football, plays hard and is aggressive. For a small guy he has a lot of passion for this game and he shows every Saturday,” Bradley said. “You can’t ask for more from a guy like that. To have him on the same field is a great feeling.”

Logan has been able to quickly acclimate to a new team, and Provo was no different, although it came with a few surprises. The top three surprises for him were the cleanliness of the streets, the churches on every corner and how nice everyone is.

“At first I thought people were fake,” Logan said. “I’d walk into Wal-mart and people would say hi to me and I’d wonder why they were talking to me. But now learning about the people here, it’s totally understandable.”

Not being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faith has not really caused him to feel uncomfortable or awkward either.

“When I committed to SDSU I knew I was committing to the No. 3 party school in the nation and then I come here and it’s the No. 1 sober school in the nation,” Logan said. “With my faith and my background I didn’t have a single problem with that.”

He comes from the San Francisco Bay area, where there are busy streets and skyscrapers. Coming to Provo has been an eye opener for him.

“The change of scenery is good and makes you appreciate it out here,” Logan said. “I actually like this pace of life better. Just to come and see mountains and nature; you don’t really get to see that back home.”

Since BYU is his first real college experience, Logan decided he would not waste a minute of his time in Provo. He can frequently be seen attending a variety of other Cougar sporting events.

“I just want to experience everything,” Logan said. “I only have two years and I want to soak it all in. I’m having the time of my life and that’s why I’m out trying to take in every moment.”

Logan would continue to make adjustments as he worked through his first practices with the Cougars. After completing fall camp in 2009, he emerged as the starting corner, opposite his new friend, Bradley. However, Logan suffered a hand injury the day after head coach Bronco Mendenhall told him he planned to start him his first game at BYU.

“At first the doctors said I had to get surgery so that devastated me,” Logan said. “I cried again.”

After seeking a few more opinions and a visit with a hand specialist it was decided Logan would be able to play after all and would not need surgery at that time. Hope was restored for the new Cougar.

With a plastic cast covering his recovering hand, Logan ran onto the field at Dallas Cowboys Stadium for his first Division I football game against the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners. The game had over 75,000 people in attendance, many of which were among the Cougar faithful.

Logan, who at the time could not even hear himself breathe, had never played in that kind of atmosphere. The largest group he had ever played in front of at junior college or high school was maybe 800 people.

“It’s another top five experience I’m going to keep with me and not just in football, but life experience,” Logan said. “I will never, never forget that moment.”

Despite getting little respect from the media and fans alike, the Cougars were able to pull off a monumental 14-13 upset over the Sooners. While the win meant huge leaps in polls, press clippings and national hype, to Logan it was confirmation of a life changing opportunity.

“I think at that time, I just got closer with everyone on the team,” Logan said. “I knew after that this was where I was supposed to be.”

Logan continued to make a name for himself in the games following. He made his first interception as a Cougar in game two against Tulane. Then he followed up with an 11 tackle performance against Florida State, his first home game in Provo in front of 64,000 fans.

“I remember getting dressed and hearing the crowd in the stadium rumbling and hearing the teammates saying its only going to get louder,” Logan said. “The fans here are great.”

While Logan played a terrific game, the Cougars were beat by the Seminoles and suffered a 54-28 defeat. Logan had his ups and downs too in the weeks to follow.

“Once I realized I was able to play at this level I got a lot more comfortable,” Logan said. “Then I had a rocky point in the season mid-way through, when I realized I was too comfortable and I really turned it up in practice.”

That was when fans really started to razz the undersized corner. He would hear calls from the crowd to put in a bigger corner, someone who is not too small. Logan said he used this as motivation to improve as he felt like he was letting down Cougar fans.

“Taking a negative and turning it into a positive is what helped me out,” Logan said. “I turned it into ‘If the fans don’t like me then I want them to like me’ and that motivated me for the best.”

In addition to the success he has experienced on the field, Logan has used his time at BYU to decide what he wants to do with life after football. He would obviously like to play football but knows his limitations due to size. Although he might not be playing, he would like to continue to be around the game, specifically at BYU.

“I’d like to stay here in Provo and get my master’s,” Logan said. “I talked to Coach Mendenhall about being a graduate assistant and I think I could help non-LDS kids to be that big brother type.”

Logan wants to help by using his life experiences and his time at BYU to help other student-athletes make adjustments to tough situations. He wants to be able to help kids the way Mendenhall has helped him.

“Coach Mendenhall has taught me not to look at an athlete for just four years and send them on his way, but how (Mendenhall) wants that player to be successful in life too,” Logan said. “That’s definitely rubbed off on me.”

With school going and the season in full swing, Logan has set some goals for himself in his final year as a Cougar.

“Now my focus would be to stay on top,” Logan said.

Staying on top can be difficult to do when you stand a few inches below of most everyone else on the field.

Once worried about what fans thought of him, he ended his first season with thousands of Cougar fans chanting his name, giving him unknown strength to play through pain and tears, allowing him to stand tall.

He hits hard, always hustles and plays bigger than his body says he can. Logan, the small but mighty defender, has definitely carved out a big enough niche of remembrance for himself at BYU.

“I can just hear it now, remember that real short corner we had?” Logan said. “Yeah, but he was one of the toughest kids and one of the hardest workers on the team. He had passion and heart and always gave 100 percent.”


The Long and Short of It

Of the thousands of student-athletes that have called themselves Cougars over the decades, there have been athletes of all different statures and attributes like 5-foot-6 Brian Logan.

“Speed, quickness and agility,” quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman said about ideal athletes. “When you combine those three words, it’s athleticism. If you can find a real athlete you’re head and shoulders above the other guy.”

Jim Skousen, a quarterback for the Cougars in 1946, was one of the smallest overall players to join the team. He stood just 5-foot-5 and weighed a mere 145 pounds. Skousen, unfortunately, is not remembered as one of the quarterbacks to come out of the BYU factory.

Contrast that with a current quarterback on the roster, Jason Munns, who stands at 6-foot-5 and 254 pounds. Traditionally, quarterbacks at BYU haven’t been that big, but they haven’t been that small either. The prototypical quarterback at BYU has been around an average of 6-foot-3 and just over 200 pounds.

Size, however, doesn’t necessarily dictate how an athlete will perform. Just look at BYU legend Ty Detmer.

Heisman Trophy winner Detmer stood under six feet, maybe with his cleats on, and weighed just 175 pounds. The native of Texas was one of the smaller BYU starting quarterbacks in history was BYU’s all-time leading passer with over 15,000 yards and a 14-year NFL veteran.

Quarterback is just one position where a certain size is beneficial. The offensive line however, is a place where the right size can be absolutely crucial. Linemen are usually the biggest guys on the field. BYU has always had one of the larger offensive lines in the country, averaging over 6-foot-5 and nearly 320 pounds in 2010.

“You want to be able to identify a guy with enough size to be able to handle the physicality of the position,” Doman said. “Then you want to know how athletic he is, how tough he is and how smart he is.”

One of the largest all around players at BYU was an offensive lineman on the roster in 1996, Greg Garrett, who measured 6-foot-10 and 340 pounds.

Players of all size can make an impact. Mike Rigell was a game-changing player for the Cougars. As a kick-return specialist from 1997 to 2001, Rigell amassed over 2,000 yards for the Cougars and is the last BYU player to ever return a kickoff for a touchdown. Rigell also measured in at only 5-foot-7 and 184 pounds.

“He was strong enough to take the physical part of the game,” Doman said, who played quarterback for BYU during Rigell’s time. “What made (Rigell) good was that he could move around athletically and made people miss. As a small guy, that made him different.”

However, when you can combine a superior athlete with one who has a big heart and drive to be successful, that creates the total package.

“Those guys are the ones who become great, Doman said. “They have more of a drive and desire to be better than the next guy and they are eventually going to rise to the top.”