"When you go to a foreign country by yourself, work with other people, teach them, get to know their language, their culture, you gain a great deal of confidence," he says.
He needed it. An Argentine with whom Nielsen had been discussing the Mormon faith started fighting with a drunk who had insulted his wife. Nielsen tried to intercede. The police arrived and tossed everyone in jail. "They threw us into a retaining cell for an hour and a half," Nielsen says. "Then they let us out, questioned us about what had happened and threw us back in, but my friend and I were released half an hour later."
Joyner's brush with the law came in his freshman year. He is well mannered and soft-spoken, with a whisper of his native Georgia in his voice. Like Nielsen, he is married and is a Mormon. But, again, don't be fooled by first impressions. "He's not quiet and reserved by any means," says Pullins.
One night in Provo, Joyner and a teammate were arrested, fingerprinted and photographed for launching fireworks at each other. "It was like we had just robbed a bank," he says. "It must have been a slow Friday night."
Though BYU rosters list his age variously as 22 or 23, Nielsen is 25. Teammates call him Grandpappy, but his relationship with the other Cougars is actually part older brother, part father confessor.
Joyner, 20, was born with orange skin, the result of an Rh factor that required him to have two complete blood transfusions in his first 24 hours. At nine, he contracted a kidney disease that caused him to retain fluid. He gained 15 pounds overnight, and his parents took him to the hospital. Had they waited a day longer, physicians said, he would have died of heart failure.
Years later Atlanta Braves Outfielder Dale Murphy, who had met Pullins during an off-season semester of study at BYU, tipped him off about Joyner. Now, he is one of two big reasons why the Cougars could take the championship at the College World Series in Omaha June 3-12. And that's no snow job.