Earlier this year, I got to know a guy named Austen Jorgensen through my day job. Austen works for a company called Nuvi. (If you happen to be in the market for a high powered social media monitoring platform, hit him up. Nuvi blows the doors off anything out there.)
After corresponding with him for a while, Austen took our budding relationship to the next level with an invite to connect on LinkedIn. (If you ever need to find me, I’m the Todd Munson wearing a McRib t-shirt.) Checking out Austen’s profile, there was a nugget of info that he’d never mentioned jumped out at me like the flipping Boogeyman.
The dude played football at BYU.
And he wasn’t just on the team. He was a hoss linebacker and a major cog in the Cougars’ defense for the duration of his career which culminated with the 2013 season. After a momentary geek out session, I fired off an email demanding to know why he had kept such a vital piece of information under wraps. From there, we had a pretty serious college football brodown and I got him on the hook to do an interview ahead of BYU’s date with destiny in Lincoln.
In talking talking football with him, the similarities between Utah and Nebraska life became strikingly familiar. Austen grew up on his family’s ranch, helping to raise high end cattle that becomes the best steak you’ll ever eat. (His rather bold claim was as much of a beef as our conversation had.) Like many Husker families, Austen’s younger brother Colby followed his lead to BYU to experience the pride of playing for their home state school. This spring Colby transitioned from tight end to linebacker and was having a very solid fall camp until he unfortunately fractured his neck during practice.
So… on that uplifting note. Let’s get to the interview.
BIG RED FURY: I wish we could kick things off on a much lighter note but how is Colby doing following his surgery? Is his wife and your family doing OK? Is there anything Husker fans can do to help?
AUSTEN JORGENSEN: I wish we could start a little lighter as well, but luckily Colby is doing well. He’s walking and he is going to be alright after all this. His wife is hanging in there strong and being a great support for him (even though they’ve only been married a few weeks now). There have been a few Husker fans that have reached out to local news sources and others to show the support and love for Colby already. That kind of continued support goes a long ways. More than people even realize I think.
Growing up were you and your brother pretty competitive with each other? What was it like having him join you in the Cougar program?
Colby and I weren’t in competition much because of our age difference. But, you know we were going at it on the basketball court and throwing down living room wrestling matches! Clearly that big brother strength gave me the advantage. Haha. It was really cool to have him come on the team with me and play though. I was pushing for his success and wanting him to be a part of the program with me, so that was a fun experience.
Haha. You definitely know the feeling. Not even sure I need to cover this question then, my man. Haha. BYU was the first to approach me and offered me on the spot my junior year and I committed right there. I was born and raised in a super small town here in Utah (Mt. Pleasant) where not a lot of people received college attention, let alone a Division 1 athletic scholarship. Both my parents went to BYU for a short time, so I was familiar with their program the most. Honestly, I had no clue what I was doing in the recruiting process, but I did know that I wanted to go to BYU from a pretty young age. Right after the initial commitment to BYU is when the floodgates opened with the other team’s recruiters.
Bronco Mendenhall has the best name for a coach since Vince Lombardi. How was it playing for him?
If you think Bronco is a great name, you should look up the names of his children and brothers! Ha. It was intense playing for Coach Mendenhall. He has a strong personality towards the game and intent on making you the best with intense practices and workouts. He’s really passionate about the defense, especially with his background, so he focused on our side of the ball a lot. His intense motivation on the defense being as perfect as it can be helped us have some of the top rated defenses nationally for the 5 years I played there. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Bronco’s children are named Raeder, Breaker, and Cutter. Yes, the guy is pretty much raising his own brood of American Gladiators.)
BYU bumped off some pretty big teams and took a lot of others to the wire during your career. What was it that made you guys such a tough opponent that could go toe-to-toe with anyone?
Playing the big opponents and going head to head with them became a challenge that was exciting and fun. The biggest thing that helped us compete with those programs was our mindset. It was preached and an overall feeling on the team that we could play with anyone, no matter the size of the school or team we were playing. Also, we knew we were going to be prepared and bring it as hard as we could every game. The way the defense trained gave us confidence and the mindset that we were going to bring it and hit you as hard and fast as we can while staying fundamentally sound!
Mike Riley, Nebraska’s new head coach, comes from Oregon State. Anything in particular that stands out about playing the Beavers?
I do remember that the Beavers mixed up the run and pass quite a bit. One particular play I remember looking for on defense was the front side guard and center lead blocking around the edge for a speed option play. For some reason I remember a lot of counter plays and them trying to play a little bit of smash mouth run game. But, I could be mixing up different games into the fading memory bank over here. Haha.
What was your favorite game that you played in?
Even though we struggled against Utah for most of my years, I absolutely loved playing up at their stadium. I loved playing within the hostile environment and feeling the entire stadium roaring against you. For some reason that was a huge rush and drove me to play better. The runner up to playing the Utes up there would be the game where we smashed the Longhorns up here in Provo. That game was a rush!
You went off against Georgia Tech in a 38-20 victory your senior year. What can I relay about that beat down to my father-in-law who happens to be a GT alum when we visit over the holidays?
You can pass on to him that I hated that game honestly! Haha. No one likes playing defense against a power/speed option offense. The slightest wrong step on defense and you’re out of place for the offense to get a big play. Also, you can let him know that that game was the ultimate “career ending” game for me. The chop blocking form they use for taking out defensive lineman and linebackers is what took my knee out and I had to get surgery just a couple weeks after that game. Kind of a depressing way to end that question. Haha.
Husker fans take a lot of pride in being good hosts to visiting fans. (Seriously, they do. Except for maybe Wisconsin which has been testing the limits of graciousness.) With this being BYU’s first visit to Lincoln, what should Nebraska fans know about the culture of BYU football and Cougar fans that could make them feel welcome? Any special cheers or greetings?
BYU fans act in a similar manner as Husker Nation I believe. They try to be welcoming and accommodating (except to Utah fans. Kind of goes without explanation, haha), so I think the two fan bases will get along. I’m not aware of any particular cheers or chants that would be welcoming. One that doesn’t feel very welcoming and I would suggest not be used is the classic “F— you BYU”. Although it does rhyme and is kind of catchy, it doesn’t give off the most welcoming vibe. Ha.
What’s your prediction for the game? (Just in case you haven’t been following the Huskers, here’s a quick scouting report: along with a whole new coaching staff and schemes, their most explosive offensive weapon will be out and they seem to be doing their best with making sure they have as many suspended players as BYU.)
It’s hard not to play favorites or have a biased opinion and go with the alum choice of BYU here. But, BYU has done a good job of losing some key players to injury as well as suspension, so that makes the decision a little tougher. Also, the home game advantage in Lincoln is very real. Tough for me to predict a score, but I’ll stick to my bias opinion of BYU pulling off an upset there in Nebraska, with a tough down to the wire game. (Hopefully there’s no hard feelings after this? Ha.) (EDITOR’S NOTE: There won’t be any hard feelings but what you described is basically the worst possible outcome for the Huskers.)
Finally, because Husker fans never got to experience the joy of beating Texas at home during Nebraska’s time in the Big 12, how great was it to take the Longhorns to the woodshed on your home turf?
This really was one of my favorite games to play in within my football career. The atmosphere of that night game was unlike any game I had been a part of. I don’t know how to explain the excitement and overall joy of manhandling the Longhorns. It’s a feeling that I’ll have to hold on to and if anyone would like to understand it further, just imagine winning the lottery, but on a much, much lower scale that doesn’t actually make you rich. Haha.