“He is a legend! He is a legend!” I yelled at the top of my lungs for the second week in a row Saturday night. Tanner Mangum somehow managed to pull off another game-winning drive, and secure his name in BYU history. He also secured a spot atop some Heisman watch lists.
Tanner has been home from his mission for three months. Before this season, he hadn’t played a down of football for years. Logically, he should not be able to perform how he has the past couple games. I keep looking for his mission legs (or more appropriately mission arm I guess). Every returned missionary has them. Tanner doesn’t.
Blaine Fowler mentioned before the game that it usually takes a returned missionary 8-9 months before he gets back to full strength. If that holds true, Tanner is still 6 months from being back to full strength. Let that soak in.
I’m talking from a fan perspective. I am a BYU fan. BYU needs Tanner Mangum. BYU fans need Tanner Mangum. I need Tanner Mangum. Let me expound. BYU lost Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams and still managed to beat Nebraska and Boise State. Most BYU fans would admit that even with those two playing, we expected to lose those games. I did.
Enter inexperienced true freshman Tanner Mangum.
BYU is now 2-0 and is traveling to UCLA to play the Bruins at the Rose Bowl. The Bruins are ranked tenth in the nation. With just one start under his belt, I am actually thinking BYU has a legitimate shot at beating UCLA. Am I losing my mind? At this point, I trust Tanner just as much as I would trust a healthy Taysom to lead us to a victory. There, I said it. That’s how I feel.
After the Nebraska game when I learned about the severity of Taysom’s injury, I felt heartbroken and sick as every Cougar fan did. But I didn’t feel as hopeless as I expected to. I felt a lot better about BYU’s chances this year (despite a much tougher schedule) than I did last year when Taysom went down.
Why? Because of Tanner Mangum.
What is it about him that gives me hope for not only the future, but the present?
First, his poise and moxie in clutch situations are impeccable. He is far beyond his years in that department. He exudes confidence that is contagious not only to his teammates, but to the fans. During that final drive against Boise State, I was calm. The only moment I found myself nervous was on the fourth and seven play when he threw that beautiful 35 yard toss to Mitchell Juergens for the win. I was nervous, but of course he wasn’t.
He has a killer instinct and desire to win. In this aspect he reminds me so much of Max Hall. Both were winners. I felt totally confident in any situation with both of them as BYU’s starting quarterback. What gives me more assurance is that Tanner has the same attitude, but with more talent.
Tanner is an NFL talent. He has arm strength that makes everybody who watches him marvel. His first two touchdown passes of his college career was the Hail Mary to Miracle Mitch, and then a bomb to the other Mitch, Mitch Juergens when he was running out of bounds, and the ball traveled about 60 yards in the air, in what resulted as an 84 yard touchdown pass. Talk about a cannon.
This guy is a gunslinger. I wasn’t old enough at the time to remember the greats like Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Robbie Boscoe, Ty Detmer, etc. But you better believe I’ve watched about every YouTube clip of them that I could find. In terms of throwing the ball deep, spreading it out to many receivers, and having the arm strength and accuracy to throw the ball anywhere on the field, Tanner Mangum’s skills fight right in with those great quarterbacks.
Now I know that might be a little much. I am not trying to compare Tanner to those BYU greats; however, I am saying that he definitely has the potential to be one. And I’m aware he has only played two games, albeit they have been a pretty darn good couple of games.
BYU is known historically as Quarterback U. We are a quarterback school. That is who we are and how we are known. Historically speaking, having a good quarterback = success for the Cougs. This is what fans want, we want to have a quarterback who reminds us of who we were, and when we were truly great. We need that guy, and I believe Tanner Mangum is that guy. He has reignited a fire of BYU fandom in me that I thought would be dimmed, due to the loss of Taysom Hill. To say he has filled in nicely for Taysom would be an understatement.
BYU fans need Tanner Mangum because he makes us want to be fans again. He is putting us on the headlines of ESPN every week. My brother who had no preference towards a college football team (he’s a basketball guy) is now high on the BYU bandwagon. That is one example. I’m sure there are many more. I mean, BYU is America’s team now.
With the rise of Tanner Mangum, expect fence-sitting Cougar fans to become die-hard once again.
Lastly, let me pump the brakes just a little bit. Cougar fans want and need Tanner Mangum to be great. We crave his success. So desperately sometimes that we strap on our blue goggles too tightly and set our expectations so high that we usually get disappointed. I know how it feels to set high expectations for a touted freshman quarterback and have those not work out (see Jake Heaps). So here I am building my hopes once again…and here’s to hoping I won’t be let down.
Seeing how Mangum has greatly exceeded expectations on the biggest stages in his first two games, Cougar fans have good reason to believe he will become what we want him to become. What we need him to become.