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Whether it was throwing that itty-bitty ball or simply listening in on the coaching sessions that convened in the Detmer house, young Ty learned something about quarterbacking. When asked how Detmer distinguishes himself from the rest of the BYU breed, Edwards turns serious and taps his head. An admittedly indifferent student—"a bad day hunting is better than a good day of school" is one of Detmer's proverbs—Detmer is a genius at reading defenses and making a very complicated scheme work.
"The BYU system is a good system," says senior running back Matt Bellini. "But I've been here when we didn't have the guy and the system didn't work. It's a tough system to pick up, and Ty picked it up right away. The system depends so much on quarterback decisions, and the other guys couldn't make them quick enough. With Ty, you have to expect the ball every play. It's not a predictable offense with Ty."
And, of course, he can deliver the ball, and without as much wobble as some folks at Brigham Young would have you believe. "He's just so accurate," says Boyce. "He throws the ball in such a great spot every time."
Then there is his relentlessness on the field. "He's taken some crazy hits," says Bellini. "Still, he always releases the ball at the last possible second. Once, in the Miami game, he ran out of the pocket, and there were these two guys heading for him from opposite directions. At the last second he took one step forward, they crashed into each other, and he threw a touchdown pass. I've seen some impressive improvisations."
Detmer admits, "It's hard for me to trash a play. I always have a feeling something good might happen. Of course, that's where the interceptions come." Like 28 of them, including two games with five apiece. This would be a shameful statistic anywhere but at BYU, where it's shrugged off. Edwards concedes that logic dictates that a good team should be on the plus side in takeaways. "I don't know why, but we're always on the minus side," he says. "I guess if you throw 50 times a game, that could happen."
Against Utah State, Detmer threw five interceptions, and his pass-efficiency rating actually increased. He was last year's national leader in that category and finished second this season behind Shawn Moore of Virginia.
More impressive than Detmer's creativity and bravery is his leadership. He was providing so much of it so soon that his teammates selected him team co-captain after his sophomore season. He is not afraid to slap a lineman upside the helmet after a busted play or chew somebody out in a huddle. Bellini says, "I missed a blitz once and he got sacked, and he was in my face, barking at me. He's the kind of quarterback that knows everybody else's position too. I'd hoped he wouldn't realize it was my fault."
Detmer, though, is the last one to discuss his on-field talents. He makes no great claims for himself and, on those occasions when he is actually recognized by a reporter, steers conversation toward his hunting exploits. Sound bite from a conference call less than a week before he was given the Heisman: "It's been a pretty good season. I got a mule deer, an elk, some pheasant...." The only thing besides hunting that seems to animate him is talk of BYU pranksterism, which has been refined since Detmer found his way to Provo. "Quality pranks," he says.
Well, you decide if this is quality stuff. "He once put a pig's head under my sheets," says Bellini. Evidently, the house Detmer shares with teammates Scott Charlton, Eric Mortensen and David Henderson and wrestler Rick Evans is the Mormon equivalent of Animal House, a place where the boys will drink a few cups of Postum and head out to egg some teammates' apartment. A lot of poultry has been sacrificed for this kind of fun.
The pig's head, which Detmer stole from a campus luau, was a considerable upgrade in his high jinks. When he first arrived in Provo, Detmer couldn't be counted on to do anything more inventive than douse an unsuspecting teammate with a helmetful of cold water. And there was the time in 1987 when running back Peter Tuipulotu broke his ankle in study hall; Detmer had beaned him with a racquetball, and Tuipulotu had given chase. "There were a lot of people unhappy about that one," Detmer says.