While BYU is known as the Quarterback Factory, BYU signal callers wouldn’t make the record books without someone on the receiving end of their throws. BYU’s tight ends have earned unprecedented success as a featured position in many of BYU's offenses over the decades.
In 2020, Matt Bushman, a Freshman All-American in 2017, enters his senior season as one of the nation's premier tight ends after joining former BYU consensus All-Americans Gordon Hudson and Dennis Pitta as the only Cougar tight ends with three consecutive 500-yard seasons.
Over the years, Cougar football has emerged as the home of some of the best pass-catching tight ends in NCAA history. Starting with “Miracle Bowl” hero Clay Brown in 1980, nine BYU tight ends have earned All-America recognition during 12 different seasons. In addition to those nine tight end greats, Bushman adds a Freshman All-America award and Chad Lewis, who went on to be a Pro Bowl tight end in the NFL, also earned Academic All-America recognition. Hudson also boasts the ultimate honor as a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
From 1976 starting with BYU tight end Brian Billick, who would become a Super Bowl winning head coach in the NFL, to 2010 before BYU went independent, the Cougars had 12 tight ends earn 20 different first-team All-Conference citations. A BYU tight end was named first-team all-conference (Jonny Harline in 2005 and 2006 and Dennis Pitta in 2007, 2008 and 2009) over five-straight years. In 2009, BYU became the first team in MWC history to sweep the tight end honors as Andrew George earned All-MWC Second Team accolades while Pitta was a consensus All-American.
In addition to Billick in 2001, five other former Cougar tight ends helped lead their teams to the Super Bowl—Doug Jolley with the Oakland Raiders in 2003, Chad Lewis with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2005, Itula Mili with the Seattle Seahawks in 2006, Gabriel Reid with the Chicago Bears in 2007 and Pitta with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013. Todd Christensen, who converted from fullback to tight end in the NFL, also helped the Oakland/LA Raiders to two Super Bowl wins in 1981 and 1984 as a Pro Bowl tight end.
Christensen and Lewis were named to several Pro Bowl teams during their successful professional careers as tight ends. In all, 23 BYU tight ends have gone on to the NFL, with 10 being drafted. Hudson was a first-round pick and Brown and Jolley were both second-round selections.
BYU tight ends still stand atop the career charts in the NCAA record book in three of the five tight end categories. Hudson's 259 yards by a tight end is the NCAA single-game record and his 75.3 yards per game average is the high mark in NCAA history. Pitta's 2,901 career yards is the most by a tight end in the NCAA annals.
With BYU’s tradition of wide-open offenses, the tight end position has thrived in Provo. Cougar tight ends boast five seasons with 1,000 or more receiving yards. Like no other school in the nation, BYU’s tight ends have earned unprecedented success.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME TIGHT END
ALL-AMERICAN TIGHT ENDS
FIRST TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE TIGHT ENDS
Note: BYU went Independent after 2010 season