On my Mind: BYU and Football Fun

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I grew up the only girl with 3 brothers who seemed to obsess more over basketball than football. It was all about the Houston Rockets. They would watch football here and there, but we didn’t plan our lives around games, by any means. One might think I’d turn out a tomboy, but I wanted nothing to do with sports growing up. Not interested at all. In high school, it turns out that I dated the middle linebacker on our high school football team. I started paying attention to the game. I was on the drill team, so sat in the bleachers with the rest of the group, as we did little hand routines to cheer on the team. I sat by my friend Wendy, who was an avid football fan, and she proceeded to explain to me every rule of the game. I learned when the appropriate times were to cheer, and when to be sad. It was then, that I really learned football.

When applying to colleges, it was all I ever wanted, to go to BYU. Growing up a Mormon in Louisiana and Texas, I was a minority–religiously speaking. I’m grateful that I learned from an early age that I wanted to live within the teachings of my church, and I was hard core. To me, BYU was the mecca of all things Mormon, a place filled with thousands of people who lived and believed the same way I did.  My Junior year in high school for spring break, I flew out to Utah to visit my older brother who was a freshman at BYU. That solidified my resolve to want to be there in two years.  It was my dream. However, I really struggled in school. Though having never been diagnosed, I know I have an attention problem. I’d read something, and have no clue what it was I just read. I’d study for tests, only to be clueless the next day. I wasn’t anywhere near the top of my class, and my ACT, well, I fell asleep in it. It was more of a nodding off that I couldn’t keep my eyes open very long.  BYU was for the elite in academics and sports. It was and still is, very hard to get into. Suffice it to say, I didn’t get in, and I was devastated. I did, However, (barely) get into our church’s 2 year Junior College in Idaho, Ricks College. (Within 4 years, it was converted to BYU-Idaho). I had an AMAZING time there socially, and worked my butt off in those two years, got on the honor roll, graduated with my Associates degree, and transferred to BYU the second semester of my sophomore year.

I. Had. Arrived.

My brother was back from his two year church mission to Brazil, and I moved into the same apartment complex as him, and met what would be my future husband.


Football season came around, and I was so excited to get season tickets. There’s nothing like cheering on the school that you’ve always dreamed of being a part of. It wasn’t just a game, it meant something to me. But it didn’t hurt that I actually understood how football was played. That first fall, I had fabulous roommates, along with my brother and his roommates, and other friends that relished in football fun. By that point, most of them all knew the school fight song, but I was just learning it. I kinda hated feeling lost when everyone would sing along after a touchdown. I eventually learned it, now sing it with JOY!

Then, the second and final fall I was at BYU, I got engaged. So those games are the epitome of happiness to me, remember what a great semester that was for me.  Here is a pic of my brother and his wife, my soon to be husband, and me.

BYU football 1999

All of that back story to sum up:

a) How grateful I feel that I was able to attend Brigham Young University. It was everything that I’d hoped it would be and more. I know others have had experiences there where they saw people not living their faith, but for me, to be surrounded on a daily basis with people who wanted to live their lives as I did, was such a strength to me. My roommates and I read scriptures together, helped each other overcome challenges, attended church together, and served together. Being a Mormon isn’t so “simple” as the world see’s it, but I have found true happiness by abiding by it’s teachings and standards.

b) Because I loved my school, and had the background of understanding football, it was SUCH a JOY to attend the BYU football game in Austin last weekend, as they played against University of Texas.

I’m a Texan–born and mostly raised–I’ve been in Austin for 12 years with my family, I have UT shirts (because I like burnt orange) but BYU will always have my heart. Funny enough, we decorated our boys room in half UT, half BYU.

BYU came to play here at UT 3 years ago, but I had a conflict. They’ve gone to Houston and Dallas, but never felt the urge to go. I’ve sent my boys a few times, but this year, for some reason…I really wanted to go. My husband wasn’t overly interested in spending the moolah. Plus, he’d been in recent years. But I kept pushing, and a week ago, we got tickets for our boys and us to go with my brother who was coming into town from Houston.

The Friday night before the game, it’s tradition for the BYU players when out of town, to give a presentation at a local church building. You see, BYU alumni are ALL OVER this country.  We got to sit FRONT ROW in our chapel to hear them speak, and my boys brought our neighbor friends. It was so fun to hear them share their thoughts on God, and one of them said, “God doesn’t care if we win or lose the game, but that we play our best.” I loved that, and I loved my boys hearing that.

Interesting fact. The entire student body at BYU signs what is called the “honor code” which means they will obstain from alcohol, drugs, pre-marital sex, (among others) and if that code is violated, they are on probation for the team and school. I read a stat that 75% of the football players are members of our faith, but not all. One player who is not Mormon spoke about how he was attracted to go to BYU to play because he wanted to be a “good man” when he was done, and liked the values instilled in the University.  Some might say too strict, but it was perfect for me.

BYU football team

They were all in blue blazers with the “Y” logo on the lapel. Sharp. There were a few musical numbers by the players, talks, and an audience Q & A that was mostly spiritually based. The kids got to go talk to the players after, and our neighbor had him sign his shoe.

family extended

The next day was game day.

It was also my first time going to the UT stadium–which holds 100,000 people. It was MASSIVE!

We met up with some friends to tailgate just a bit before, enough to grab some foot and adhere fake tatoo’s on our faces. My friend Alisha had a burnt orange shirt on, but I placed a little BYU on her cheek. She didn’t attend either school, but I think her heart is in a bit of both.

ut vs byu

It felt kindof exhilarating to walk in our BYU blue towards the stadium in a sea of burnt orange. Then little by little, we see our fellow BLUE, and then more and more. Lots of BYU bringing their kids, even babies to join in on the fun. Ever since BYU crushed UT last year in Utah (and fired their defensive coach right after), I’d heard that UT had this game circled in RED since then.

Here we are excitedly walking into the stadium…

Brigham Young University

Then my brother snapped this pic of us as the band played a pre game show. We decided not to bring the girls this round, but they stayed behind and played with friends.

Dukes cheer on BYU

The first half of the game, we were in a mostly UT section. We met up with a handful of friends from Houston, saw some friends from here in Austin, and just enjoyed the play. At half time, score was 6-0. Happy, but slow going. Then, the second half was jump up and down excitement from start to finish!

Here are some  random pictures from throughout the game.  This pic of my sister in law (as she was about to change into the vintage “good luck” sweater in sweltering heat) shows a cool view of the stadium

University of Texas Football Stadium

It’s fun to see the enormity of the stadium from various angles.

Football Game

I had to take a picture of the 4 of us adults, 15 years later (see top picture), and shared a side by side on Instagram

family and byu football

Love this pic of my boys

cheering on BYU

It was an exciting game, fun to win!!

BYU won

We got to sing our fight song quite a few times, and just had an all around fun time. Grateful for experiences like this that remind me of the journey that I’ve taken, and happy to be where I am.

Join The Discussion



  1. Wendy (WSW) says:

    Love Ya KJH!! Love your memory—-and love THIS memory you have with all your family. You continue to pep me up for my day, you have a good one yourself! 🙂

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Love ya, my friend! Thanks for teaching me the ways of football, and for reading along when I didn’t even realize it!! You are a great momma to your littles–so much fun in store!!