Like sands from an hourglass, so are the days of our lives. So goes your favorite soap opera of all time. You know what, though?
Life doesn’t always have to be some gloom and doom festival. You can have fun doing sports, you know, sportsing up your sports like some sporty sports sporter and like it.
These five people actually did that in 2015, taking what looked like certain bad moments to come and turning them into pretty little flowers that bloom and float about the atmosphere like tiny butterflies of hope.
Tanner Mangum was one such guy, taking over for Taysom Hill in front of 90,000 rabid fans at Nebraska as a freshman mere months off his LDS church mission. All he did was rewrite history and send BYU to an amazing victory on a Hail Mary on the game’s last play.
There were others as well, but none as memorable as the kid from Idaho who once won MVP of an Elite 11 camp with a guy named Jameis Winston.
5. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
It’s not easy to forget a personality as ebullient and abrasive as former Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter–who made the top 5 list of morons for 2015–but it’s alot easier when his replacement is Rudy Gobert.
Most Jazz fans probably felt that moving Kanter out and inserting Gobert was a colossal mistake. Turns out Jazz fans are mistaken all the way around, because Gobert not only dominated the paint, he literally has rewritten the rule book for the way a Jazz center is supposed to play.
Say it aint so, but it is. Gobert is here to stay and will be a force in the league for years to come–and Kanter is off to be a role player with his agent in Oklahoma City, bilking the Thunder of millions of dollars in the process.
4. Chuckie Keeton, Utah State football
No player has had more potential and been through more–sorry, Taysom Hill–than Keeton, who after undergoing several knee surgeries has remained a consummate team player throughout.
Once considered a Heisman Trophy candidate and possible NFL prospect, Keeton’s career took a downturn thanks to two horrific knee injuries that wrecked several promising seasons at Utah State.
But Keeton’s attitude throughout was remarkably humble throughout. Instead of pointing fingers at Utah State’s coaching staff and demanding a transfer–which he could have done easily–the Houston native turned to his faith to guide him through the rough patches and came out a winner.
That he nearly led the Aggies to a Potato Bowl victory in his final game on two surgically repaired knees tells you all you need to know about someone who will be a winner in life.
3. Damian Lillard, former Weber State star and current NBA All-Star
Aside from Steve Smith and Tom Hackett, Lillard probably gets the most national press of any local sports athlete. But unlike Smith and Hackett, Lillard keeps his mouth shut for the most part and just works. Not to take anything away from Smith or from Hackett, but Lillard is arguably the highest profile local athlete because of what he does off the court as well.
Lillard also received his bachelor’s degree from Weber State after taking classes spanning several offseasons. It just goes to show you that just because you become an NBA All-Star and get famous beyond your wildest dreams–and have your own shoe, you can still be real with people and remember where you came from.
2. Delon Wright, former Utah Utes basketball and current NBA player
Wright kind of flew under the radar on a local scale, but his story is amazing, frankly. To come from a community college to Utah after not qualifying academically initially, to becoming a 1st round NBA Draft pick only after winning some prestigious awards–like the Bob Cousy–only tells you a fraction of Wright’s story.
There’s more to the story. Wright also became the first member of his family–including brother and fellow NBA player Dorell–to graduate with a college degree. Thus the former Ute also fulfilled his mother’s wish and gave himself more than he ever imagined: a bright future no matter what path he chooses to take.
1. Tanner Mangum, BYU football
Magnum is the ultimate rags-to-riches sports story, local or national. Months off his LDS mission, he was thrust into the starting lineup due to an injury to starter Taysom Hill.
The quarterback out of Idaho via the Elite 11 camp for the best of the best high school prospects stepped in without a hitch and led BYU to a victory on a Hail Mary at Nebraska of the Big 10.
The best part about Mangum was that he held a quiet confidence that helped his team win nine games and helped him throw for over 3,000 yards this year. But, the thing that made Mangum who he was off the field was arguably the most impressive quality he displayed.
Never one to claim credit for anything he did on the field, Mangum showed a remarkable sense of humor–even when reporters botched his name up. He could have been angry about it, but he wasn’t. It just proved BYU is in good hands for the near future.