2009 Sugar Bowl: Brian Johnson, Kalani Sitake Remember Team Bus Leaving MVP Behind

Jun 12, 2023, 1:34 PM | Updated: 1:42 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Imagine. The year is 2009. You just led your team to a perfect 13-0 season, slaying almighty Alabama, earning Sugar Bowl MVP honors, and the team bus leaves without you.

That was reality for former Utah quarterback turned Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson after Utah football’s impressive performance in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. Both Johnson and BYU head coach Kalani Sitake who was the Utes’ linebackers coach at the time took a trip down memory lane, sharing funny details of that situation.

The 2008 Utah football team was just announced as an inductee into the Crimson Club Hall of Fame for 2023 last week and both men were a big part of the Utes’ success that year.


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2009 Sugar Bowl MVP Brian Johnson Left At Super Dome

It may feel like a ridiculous scene written up for extreme comedic effect in one of those Disney “feel good” sports movies, but Johnson really was left behind at the Super Dome with his MVP trophy after beating Alabama while his team began to celebrate.

“We leave Brian Johnson, the MVP at the stadium,” Sitake said straight-faced. “We left him. We forgot about him.”

“Yeah, I got left,” Johnson reiterated with the start of a smirk on his face. “The bus left me.”

Sitake then recalled the moment he realized Johnson was missing when the team was back at the hotel.

“I remember we were getting back, and I’m like, ‘where is BJ? I’ve got to take a picture with him,'” Sitake said. “Nobody knew where he was at.”

Finally, walking alone in New Orleans with only his MVP trophy to keep him company, Johnson called Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham to find out where everyone was and get a ride back to the team hotel.


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“I was walking down the street with my MVP trophy, and I call coach Whitt,” Johnson said. “‘Hey, where are you guys at?’ He was like, ‘what do you mean?’ ‘You left me at the stadium.’ So, he calls his brother, and his brother comes to pick me up from the stadium. I get to the hotel, and I had missed everybody going in. Everybody is already partying and having a great time.”

Sitake finishes the story by making a crack that the Utes had left the future Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator somewhere in the Big Easy without knowing it. Whoops.

“We were so focused on each other and the excitement and energy that we left the Eagles’ OC holding the trophy,” Sitake said.

The 2008 Sugar Bowl team will be inducted into the 2023 Crimson Club HOF on Friday, September 22 with the rest of their esteemed class. There will also be a celebration of the 2023 CCHOF class at halftime the following day as the Utes host UCLA at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports



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2009 Sugar Bowl: Brian Johnson, Kalani Sitake Remember Team Bus Leaving MVP Behind