The telephone. It kept . . .
All through the day, and into the night.
Girls. Guys. Kids. Wanting to hear that voice. Ty’s voice.
Usually, Ty Detmer and his four roommates would take the calls in stride. The Heisman Trophy hype had started in the summer, and they were still young. None of them had ever been through anything like this before. How bad could it get, really?
There were times when they were amused by the whole scene. It was fall. They liked fall. It was football season, and this Heisman stuff was kind of a kick.
Until they would try to sleep in on a Sunday after getting back from a road trip late Saturday. These were the times when they felt like ripping the phone out of the wall and tossing it out the window.
It never stopped. Owning their number became a status symbol in Provo, Utah, like having the latest pair of Nikes.
“I don’t know, a student-teacher at a high school told us he saw a girl walking down the hall saying ‘I got Ty Detmer’s phone number,’ and passing it out,” said David Henderson, one of Detmer’s roommates and a second-team defensive back. “We got so many hang-ups.”
At its peak, the house answering machine was taking about 100 calls a day. Incredibly, BYU student information was giving out Detmer’s phone number to anyone who asked. Henderson said the roommates called information and asked the campus operator to stop giving it out, and he said he would post a note.
That was a couple of days before BYU stunned then-No.1 Miami in Provo. By the end of that game, it was apparent that this would not be a normal year in Provo. Ty Detmer became the Heisman front-runner.
A couple of days after the Miami game, Henderson said they again called BYU information. This time they simply asked for Ty’s number. They got it. No problem, thank you for using BY & U. So much for posting a note.
Two weeks ago, it finally got to be too much. Detmer and his roommates, a bit older and wiser, had their phone number changed to an unlisted one.
But they couldn’t very easily change their doorbell.
The five of them--four football players and a wrestler--live in a rented house in what once was a quiet neighborhood. Lots of families. Lots of kids.
“The kids go to school and tell their friends they know where Ty Detmer lives,” Henderson said.
“According to them, the other kids don’t believe them, so they want autographs.”
They also want to play football in the front yard. During the season, Detmer and Co. rarely had time to do so. Once the season is finished, though, Henderson said, they play more frequently.
Soon, there will be games in the front yard. This week, though, the neighborhood turns its attention from the house down the street to San Diego. The Heisman Trophy winner arrives in town this afternoon, and San Diegans are getting spoiled. Not only does the Holiday Bowl have a history of nail-biting finishes, now, it has a Heisman history. Barry Sanders two years ago, now Detmer. Two winners in three bowl games. And Detmer played last year as well.
Thanks to a shy, polite, mischievous, 22-year-old quarterback who could just as easily fit into a Boy Scout troop, this has been one of the wildest and craziest seasons in BYU history. According to BYU’s sports information people, no other athlete in BYU history has generated this much interest. Not Jim McMahon. Not Steve Young. Not Robbie Bosco or Michael Smith or Danny Ainge. Nobody.
The madness began during the summer, with the manufacturing of Heisman “ties” and the plotting of the hype. It was the Miami game that turned Provo inside out. But Detmer’s solid-gold season opened a week before Miami, in his native Texas . . .
Sept. 1, in El Paso, Tex.
BYU 30, Texas El Paso 10
Imagine. You are a shy college student who loves playing football. You also love to hunt, because it gets you out into the woods, away from the daily grind and limelight. You are the focus of your team, and nearly every time you step into a room, people know who you are.
You are in El Paso, and these wacky BYU fans are wearing blue ties with your name and No. 14 on them. Heisman Tys.
You are getting ready to open the season in the midst of all of this madness. And then, while standing in the lobby of the team hotel, you see your mother heading toward you . . . and she is wearing a big button on her blouse. The button has your picture on it.
“A head shot,” Henderson said.
Betty Detmer had flown in from the family home in Mission, Tex. What with her husband and another son involved with high school football, and one daughter in school and the other married, it would be her only chance to see Ty play in person this season.
It was an interesting opening, and not only because Detmer passed for 387 yards. He surprised BYU Coach LaVell Edwards by getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Later, there was a brawl, and one of the Texas papers splashed a big picture of Ty in the middle of the fight across the page.
“Mild-mannered Ty was pictured fixin’ to slug someone,” Betty said. “He had some guy by the face mask. Koy (Ty’s 17-year-old brother) loved it.”
Today, that picture hangs on the bulletin board of Koy’s room.
The Heisman Tour ’90 was off to a rousing start.
Sept. 8, in Provo
BYU 28, Miami 21
Nighttime. There is a big, white “Y” on a mountaintop overlooking Provo. Somebody makes his way toward it. A “T” is planted in front of the “Y”. All set for game day.
“Half the people thought this was our first game,” Detmer said. “It was really big. Students on campus wished you good luck everywhere you went.”
This was a turning point as far as the Heisman race was concerned. Detmer completed a season-high 38 of 54 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns in front of a sellout crowd and national ESPN audience. He did this despite receiving a cut on his chin that took six stitches.
Ring! In Mission, the Detmer family’s phone rang all that night and the next day. Friends, relatives . . . excitement.
Ring! Ty called the next day.
“He was just elated when we talked to him,” Betty Detmer said. “I don’t think his chin even hurt.”
Sept. 15, in Provo
BYU 50, Washington State 36
To win the Heisman, you need several things: Talent. Publicity. Statistics. And maybe a little bit of magic.
Against Washington State, Detmer had it all.
Miami week was over, and talk about letdowns: BYU trailed at halftime, 29-7. Suddenly, Detmer threw three fourth-quarter touchdowns and led a comeback. He finished with 448 yards passing and five touchdown passes. His legend was sealed.
The Heisman is also timing. The Cougars were scheduled to appear on CBS against San Diego State the next week, and because of that, CBS had a crew there for this game.
“The CBS crew was there, and they kept feeding updates back to the stations,” BYU Coach LaVell Edwards said. “You couldn’t have written a better script.”
Meanwhile, no need to worry about Detmer’s ego with his roommates around. They kid him so much there is no way Detmer can get a big head. Hubert, they call him. That is Ty’s middle name. Hubert. After his grandfather.
“It’s really good for Ty to live with those guys,” Betty Detmer said.
Sept. 22, in Provo
BYU 62, San Diego State 34
An hour before game time. Detmer is loosening up by taking snaps and rolling right and then left. You’ve heard of the two-step drop? Well, a CBS cameraman is about two steps from Detmer, filming everything.
Interest in Detmer was so high that CBS decided to show this game to about 80% of the nation. It was originally scheduled as a regional game.
Meanwhile, it turns out, Detmer’s roommates aren’t the only ones who get on him about the Heisman stuff. His father, Sonny, usually lets him have it during his one or two calls home each week. When Ty calls, he answers the phone, “Stud.” That always gets a laugh.
There have been quite a few serious moments, too. Ty had been depressed after the UTEP game. He didn’t think he played well. Imagine passing for 387 yards and one touchdown and not thinking you played well.
“If it is not any fun any more, you need to find something else to do,” Sonny told Ty then.
After playing well against Miami and Washington State, Ty shredded SDSU for 514 yards.
Now, it was fun again.
Sept. 29, in Eugene, Ore.
Oregon 32, BYU 16
His hand ached. His right hand. The passing one. He had banged it on a helmet against Washington State, and then dinged it again against SDSU. Detmer didn’t practice all week because of an injured hand. It showed. Five of his passes were intercepted.
“Ty died in Eugene,” screamed the broadcasters.
By the end of the season, 28 of Detmer’s passes were be intercepted, and each Heisman watcher had his own opinion. Detmer may have handled the predictions better than his mother.
“One day it’s ‘St. Ty of the Football,’ so much glory he could do no wrong,” Betty Detmer said. “The next day, it’s ‘He’s only 5-11 and can’t throw the football more than 20 yards, and it’s all wobbly.’ I’d be so mad I could just spit.”
As if the loss and five interceptions weren’t enough, one of Detmer’s roommates, Rick Evans--the wrestler--is from Oregon. All week, he had been talking about Oregon.
“Oregon guys are tougher than guys from Texas,” he told Detmer and Henderson, both of whom are from Texas.
When the team got back and Detmer returned to the house, Evans just sat there. Grinning.
Oct. 6, in the mountains
By mid-December, many of the weekends would become a blur to Detmer. Not this one.
“Got an elk that weekend,” he said.
With a week off, his hand was placed in a removable cast. He removed the cast long enough to go hunting.
The Detmer family joke is that one reason they don’t go to a psychiatrist is that they spend time in the woods. Quiet time, where they can sort out their thoughts and feelings.
Oct. 13, in Provo
BYU 52, Colorado State 9
The sign appeared on their door the night after the game. Some girls left it, asking Detmer and Henderson to go out with them. Detmer and Henderson read the sign and thought, why not?
They went out to eat. They played miniature golf. They took a picture. Next thing anybody knew, Ty and his blind date were pictured on wedding announcements distributed around campus.
If there’s anything he loves as much as football and hunting, it’s a good prank. A few teammates got him on this one.
No wonder Henderson talked Detmer into going. He knew it was a set-up all along.
Oct. 20, in the mountains
Another bye, another weekend clearly in focus.
“Got a deer that weekend,” Detmer said.
By now, with the telephone ringing and the press hounding, the woods and mountains were the only place he could get any rest. His cousin, Freddie Buchholz, was with him, and Buchholz got a real eye opener when a local television station did a live remote and showed Ty building a fire and telling hunting tales.
So much for Detmer’s peace.
Buchholz, meanwhile, spent the night at Ty’s house.
So much for Buchholz’s peace.
“Freddie said the phone never stopped ringing,” Betty Detmer said. “He was glad to get out of there, he said.”
By now, things were going well off the field as well as on. It was about this time that Detmer got a girlfriend.
Her name is Kim Herbert, and she is 22. Mainly, she and Detmer spend time at her house or in the mountains.
“It would probably be difficult for them to make a movie,” Henderson said. “On time, anyway.”
She gives his roommates and Eric Mortensen, a teammate, all the ammunition they need. Mortensen, you see, had a pretty serious girlfriend for about two years.
“Ty always used to talk about it,” Henderson said. “About how he was spending so much time taking her out to eat, and how much money he was spending.
“Now it’s all swung back to Ty.”
As for Detmer’s family, Herbert has already passed inspection. Sonny saw her playing softball in July and, well . . .
“He said she could hit hard and run well,” Betty Detmer said. “Is that a coach’s impression or what?”
Oct. 27, in Provo
BYU 55, New Mexico 31
Homecoming. Pep rallies. Sharks.
Ty Detmer, Mr. Heisman Trophy candidate, took three stitches in his left hand a few days before the game when he punctured it dissecting a shark .
The way Evans tells the story, one of the girls in class couldn’t cut through the shark skin, so Detmer decided to help.
When Detmer called home, Sonny answered while humming the “Jaws” theme.
The wound wasn’t serious enough for Detmer to skip the game. He passed for 464 yards.
Nov. 3, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
BYU 54, Air Force 7
You play football in the East, you see all kinds of weather. You play football in the West, you don’t worry so much about the elements. Until now.
“First time I played in snow,” Detmer said. “It was a lot of fun. It’s a lot better than playing in rain. The ball doesn’t get wet.”
Not many could tell he had never played in snow--he passed for 397 yards and three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Detmer’s parents watched the game on satellite television. This is how they saw most of his games. A friend had his television hooked up to a satellite dish, a local cafe in Mission also had one and near the end of the season, the booster club had a satellite dish installed at Koy’s high school. The only game they missed was the Hawaii game. As it would turn out, that was probably for the best.
NOV. 10, in Laramie, Wyo.
BYU 45, Wyoming 14
The game had long since ended. Detmer had another Detmer game, passing for 484 yards. Edwards was on his way home. Suddenly, he was struck by a thought: Ty Detmer was going to win the Heisman.
Edwards had called Detmer into his office several times in the past few months to talk to him about the Heisman. How to handle all of the media requests. How to handle all of the appearance requests. How are you doing, Ty? Is it too overwhelming? You OK?
He always was. And now, for the first time, Edwards allowed himself to think in terms of Ty winning.
“It wasn’t until then that I thought it might happen,” Edwards said. “I remember going home and telling my wife, ‘You know, I really think Ty is going to win the thing.’ ”
Nov. 17, in Salt Lake City
BYU 45, Utah 22
The numbers continued to get larger. Detmer passed for 451 yards, increasing his career total to 10,106. He became the first junior to pass for more than 10,000 yards in a career. By season’s end, he would hold 42 NCAA records. This game was also noteworthy because BYU clinched the WAC title.
The crunch on Detmer had become so strong during the season that BYU eventually quit setting up one-on-one telephone interviews. There was a weekly conference call, two if called for. Ralph Zobell, BYU sports information director, figured that by the end of the season, more than 100 people had interviewed Detmer just on the conference calls.
“Saturdays have been fun,” Detmer said. “Other than that, its been hectic. Each week, we got better and better and stayed in the spotlight.”
Nov. 24, in Provo
BYU 45, Utah State 10
Relief. The week before the Heisman ballots went in. Finally, the speculation was about to end.
Disaster. Five interceptions.
Against Utah State?
“Didn’t go as well as we wanted it to,” Detmer said.
Said Edwards: “We’d won the championship and really had a hard time coming back,” he said.
Dec. 1, Honolulu
Hawaii 59, BYU 28
You don’t describe the feeling of something like winning the Heisman Trophy in words. You do it through tears and laughs, and smiles and hugs.
The Detmers had a feeling this would be a good day. Lori, 10 1/2 and the only girl playing in an organized flag football league in Mission, had a game that morning. After three earlier losses, her team finally won.
Then, the Detmers got on their game clothes and drove to Kingsville for a playoff game. They got there early enough for a television hookup with Ty in Hawaii. Word came. He won. Sonny broke down crying.
“Sonny broke down,” Betty Detmer said. “He bawled. Our friends were laughing. He had told me, ‘You’re going to have to talk. This is getting to be too much for me.’ ”
Oh, what a day. Later, Koy’s team won its playoff game.
Oh, what a week. Everyone except Koy went to New York for the Heisman ceremony. Betty and daughters Dee Dorman, 21, who is married, and Lori flew in Dec. 6. Sonny went the next day. Koy stayed behind so he wouldn’t miss football practice during the playoffs.
Everyone else met Ty and Kim and a few BYU representatives.
His mother had not seen him since the first weekend in September in El Paso. His father hadn’t seen him since early July.
They picked up two trophies. One is at BYU. The other sits in his grandparents’ house.
It hasn’t been an easy year for them. Ty’s grandfather, Hubert Sr., has cancer, and the Detmers know he probably will not be with them next football season.
Maybe some kind of award should go to his grandparents. They, after all, are the ones who kept Ty’s scrapbooks this fall. Betty’s brother in St. Louis, sister in Corpus Christi, and friends in Indiana, Ohio and Florida would all send clippings, and his grandparents’ house maybe was the biggest fire hazard in Texas.
There will be more clippings. This winter: Will Ty apply early for the NFL draft? If not, next fall: Can Ty repeat his Heisman?
Edwards said Detmer will forgo the NFL draft and return for a senior season at BYU.
“And if he said he’s coming back, you can just write it down,” Edwards said.
The months have worn on Detmer. It hasn’t shown in public. There have been no reports of him losing his temper or being rude. But those who know him well have noticed a subtle change. They say he seems a little quieter, a little more worn out.
After the Holiday Bowl, he will return to Mission with his mother and father in the family van. They figure to get home on New Year’s Eve, and Ty will stay there for a week or so. He has asked his parents not to plan anything during that time. He would like to rest.
There is always just one more day, though. That will come Saturday, when BYU tries to avenge last year’s Holiday Bowl loss to Penn State. A couple of Ty’s cousins from Texas will meet the Detmers in San Diego. And a few nights ago, Betty Detmer spoke with Ty on the phone.
“Ty,” she told him. “It’s going to be awful hard here in Texas if you don’t beat A&M.;”
Ty Detmer has taken the attention and the publicity this year and thrown them 50 yards downfield, and then been ready for more. And now, his mother was telling him how difficult it would be to live in Texas if BYU loses the Holiday Bowl?
TY DETMER’S SEASON
Opponent Att. Comp. Yds. TD Int. UTEP 46 33 387 1 2 Miami 54 38 406 3 1 Washington State 50 32 448 5 2 San Diego State 38 26 514 3 0 Oregon 57 33 442 2 5 Colorado State 38 26 316 4 3 New Mexico 41 26 464 5 2 Air Force 43 30 397 3 0 Wyoming 50 35 484 2 2 Utah 50 28 451 5 2 Utah State 50 32 560 5 5 Hawaii 45 22 319 3 4 Totals 562 361 5,188 41 28