Sonny Detmer, Father Of Former BYU Legend Ty Detmer, Passes Away

Sep 22, 2020, 4:58 PM | Updated: 5:02 pm
Ty Detmer - Sonny Detmer...
Ty Detmer, flanked by his father Sonny, left, plays the 1989 Deseret News' Athlete of the Year award he received from publisher William James Mortimer, right, during a luncheon in Detmer's honor in Provo. March 17, 1990. (Stuart Johnson, Deseret News Archives)
(Stuart Johnson, Deseret News Archives)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Herbert “Sonny” Detmer, the father to BYU’s lone Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer, has passed away on Tuesday. He was 76 years old.

A high school football coaching legend in Texas, Detmer fielded passing attacks that reminded many of the heralded BYU offenses of the 80s and 90s. With high-powered schemes that were advanced for its era.

Detmer was a head coach at Southwest High when Ty was a prep star. He also led Mission High when younger son Koy set Texas state records and eventually ended up at Somerset.

In between his stints at Southwest and Mission, Detmer almost had a job in Utah High School football. Detmer applied to be the head coach Mountain View High School in Orem when Ty was playing at BYU.

Just like his two sons, Sonny Detmer, played college sports as well. Sonny played football at a junior college before transferring to Florida State, where he lettered in basketball and baseball with the Seminoles.

Back in the summer of 1987, before Ty’s senior year at Southwest High, Sonny and the lightly-recruited Ty drove from San Antonio to Provo to impress LaVell Edwards and the BYU coaching staff in hopes of earning a scholarship offer.

The legend has grown more over the years. But upon first glance of the 5-foot-11 signal-caller, LaVell Edwards jokingly said to Sports Illustrated, “I’ve heard of his numbers, of course, but we hadn’t really recruited him, didn’t have film on him. So I’m thinking John Elway and in walks Pee-Wee Herman.”

Well, BYU’s Pee-Wee had his version of a big adventure leading him to national glory and catapulting the Cougars back into the quarterback business.

Sonny Detmer compiled a 229-130-2 record in his high school coaching career that spanned four decades. Putting him as one of the 50 winningest coaches in Texas High School history and making the Detmer family an institution on the gridiron.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm, KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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