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BYU Football’s 100 Greatest Players Of All-Time: Nos. 76-100

May 1, 2024, 9:01 AM | Updated: May 22, 2024, 7:42 am

BYU Football, Greatest Players of All-Time, 76-100...

The greatest BYU football players of all-time. In this installment, KSL Sports BYU Insider reveals numbers 76-100 on the list. (Graphic by KSL Sports, photos courtesy of Deseret News)

(Graphic by KSL Sports, photos courtesy of Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football will kick off its 100th season in 2024.

In honor of BYU hitting the century mark, KSL Sports is rolling out our ranking of the 100 greatest players in BYU football history.

Throughout May, we will release 25 players in the countdown to the number one BYU player of all time.

Let’s kick it off with players 76 through 100 on the list.

To capture the nostalgia of BYU football, subscribe to the “A Century of Cougar Football” Podcast. The podcast will feature interviews with former BYU stars and an analysis of the rankings uploaded throughout the month.

100. Jesse “Phantom Pete” Wilson

Jessie Wilson, BYU Football

Halfback 

Hometown: Payson, Utah 

Years Played: 1931-1933 

BYU football’s first recognized All-American is “Pete” Wilson from Payson, Utah. He was listed at 165 pounds.

99. James Dye

James Dye, BYU Football

Wide Receiver/Punt Returner 

Hometown: Los Angeles, California 

Years Played: 1995-1996 

The electrifying James Dye was a big play waiting to happen in the return game during his two seasons at BYU after transferring from Utah State. 

Dye led the nation in punt return average at 21.9 yards per return in 1995. He scored four touchdowns on punt returns. Then, in 1996, he scored a touchdown on a kick return, going 100 yards against UTEP. 

Perhaps the most impressive part of his career was becoming a two-time Cougar Club Crowd-Pleaser Award winner.

98. Matt Payne

Matt Payne, BYU Football

Kicker/Punter 

Hometown: North Ogden, Utah 

Years Played: 2001-2004 

Payne finished his BYU career with 312 points. He made 74% of his field goal attempts and, at the end of his career, held the NCAA record for most consecutive field goals made from 40-49 yards at 14. 

His career-long was a 53-yarder against USC in the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

Growing up in Ogden, Payne dreamed of playing quarterback at BYU. Instead, he became a kicker. 

His physicality as a specialist catapulted Payne into BYU lore as a kicker. On two occasions, Payne brought the pain to Boise State return specialist Chris Carr.  

97. Hans Olsen

BYU Football, Hans Olsen

Defensive Line 

Hometown: Weiser, Idaho 

Years Played: 1997-2000 

Landing Hans Olsen was a significant victory for BYU in the 1996 recruiting class. Olsen, the nephew of Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, was a first-team Offensive Lineman and Defensive Lineman in Idaho, picked BYU over Tom Osborne’s Nebraska Cornhuskers, Washington, Oregon, and Utah State. 

Olsen went on to be a standout defensive tackle at BYU. He was an All-MWC selection his senior season and started in all 12 games. 

One of Olsen’s career highlights was a scoop and score against San Diego State in 1999, with his arms flailing everywhere to celebrate.

96. Reno Mahe

BYU Football, Reno Mahe

Wide Receiver/Running Back 

Hometown: Salt Lake City 

Years Played: 1998, 2001-2002 

Mahe was a do-it-all star at Brighton High School, as many high-profile schools from the West Coast pursued him. 

He signed with BYU and began his career as a running back. Mahe immediately made a splash in his first game as a true freshman, rushing for 25 yards at Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 

He was an impactful player with endless potential, but that potential had to wait a few years. Mahe enrolled at Dixie State Junior College for two years after a suspension from BYU.

Despite the adversity, Mahe returned to BYU in 2001, where he flourished as a wide receiver in Gary Crowton’s “Crow Ball” offense. 

Mahe racked up 1,211 receiving yards that season and had 91 receptions.  

During Mahe’s three seasons at BYU, he totaled 3,417 all-purpose yards from receiving, rushing, kick returns, and punt returns.

95. Sione Takitaki

BYU Football, Sione Takitaki

Linebacker/Defensive End 

Hometown: Fontana, California 

Years Played: 2014-2015, 2017-2018 

Takitaki overcame adversity during his BYU career to become an all-time great for the Cougars. 

Takitaki’s talent was undeniable when he arrived as a three-star recruit. During his freshman season, he broke out against UCF with two sacks.  

But he had some off-the-field problems that took him away from the team. He faced a suspension in 2015, then missed the entire 2016 campaign, Kalani Sitake’s first year. 

When Takitaki returned in 2017, he lined up at defensive end and had five sacks that season. 

He returned to the linebacker position in 2018, and he took off as one of the nation’s best backers. In an upset win over No. 6 Wisconsin, Takitaki earned National Defensive Player of the Week for his 13-tackle performance against the Badgers. 

The NFL veteran closed his BYU career with a 19-tackle outing in a dominant bowl win over Western Michigan.

94. Matt Bushman

BYU Football, Matt Bushman

Tight End 

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona 

Years Played: 2017-2020 

Matt Bushman, a two-sport standout who dabbled in BYU baseball, became an immediate star for BYU football in his freshman year. 

Bushman was a bright spot during a challenging 4-9 season in 2017. He introduced himself to BYU fans with a four-catch, 105-yard outing in a rainy spring game. 

From there, Bushman totaled 125 catches for 1,719 yards and nine touchdowns in his BYU career. 

What makes it even more impressive is that Bushman had six different starting quarterbacks throwing him the ball during his career. 

One of Bushman’s highlight moments was a touchdown grab on a trick play against nationally ranked Boise State in 2019. 

Bushman’s career at BYU ended prematurely after an injury suffered in fall camp in 2020.

93. Larry Moore

BYU Football, Larry Moore

Center 

Hometown: La Mesa, California 

Years Played: 1995-1996 

Moore was a heralded JUCO All-American from Grossmont College in California. He was immediately a starter after fall camp in his junior season after an injury to Will Knight sent Moore into the lineup at guard. 

Moore became a two-time All-WAC offensive lineman and in 1996, he was one of the top centers in the country for a BYU team that went on to win 14 games.

92. John Walsh

BYU Football, John Walsh

Quarterback 

Hometown: Torrance, California 

Years Played: 1991-1994

If five-star ratings had been a thing when John Walsh came out of Carson High School in California, Walsh would have been a five-star. He turned down Miami, USC, Florida State and others to sign with BYU. 

Walsh was the full-time starter at BYU for two seasons. 

Despite being a polarizing quarterback to BYU fans, Walsh put up big numbers at BYU. For his career, Walsh passed for 8,390 yards and tossed 66 touchdown passes. That doesn’t include bowl stats. 

His highlights include winning at Notre Dame and Oklahoma in the 1994 Copper Bowl, helping lead BYU to a final No. 18 ranking that season. 

Walsh left early after his junior season for the NFL draft.  

91. Justin Ena

BYU Football, Justin Ena

Linebacker 

Hometown: Shelton, Washington 

Years Played: 1998-2001 

Ena was a standout linebacker for BYU, earning All-MWC honors in three consecutive seasons. 

Coming out of high school, he played fullback in a wishbone offense while also catching the attention of BYU coaches as a linebacker prospect. 

Ena reached the century mark in tackles in two of his seasons at BYU. 

Ena was the face of the program entering the 2001 football season as the cover athlete on BYU’s media guide to kick off the Gary Crowton era.

90. Ryan Rehkow

BYU Football, Ryan Rehkow

Punter 

Hometown: Veradale, Washington 

Years Played: 2020-2023 

When Ryan Rehkow arrived at BYU, a former assistant coach for the Cougars felt that Rehkow was talented and athletic enough to play linebacker. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Rehkow stuck with punting and it worked out well as he became one of the best punters in program history. 

Rehkow is the first BYU football player to earn a Big 12 Player of the Week recognition. 

During his freshman season in 2020, Rehkow produced a 49-yard run on a fake punt against Texas State. 

In 2021, Rehkow booted the longest punt in program history with an 83-yard blast against Arizona State.

89. Todd Watkins

BYU Football, Todd Watkins

Wide Receiver 

Hometown: San Diego, California 

Years Played: 2004-2005 

Todd Watkins played on the same high school team with Reggie Bush and Alex Smith at Helix High School. 

His football career led to Grossmont JC, then to BYU. 

In 2004, Watkins stepped onto the scene at BYU, instantly becoming a deep threat for BYU QB John Beck. 

During his junior season, Watkins racked up 1,042 receiving yards on 52 catches. His highlight performance was a nine-catch, 211-yard game against Boise State, which led Sports Illustrated to call Todd Watkins the best deep threat in college football. 

Watkins finished his BYU career in 2005 with 678 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

88. Ray Feinga

BYU Football, Ray Feinga

Offensive Line 

Hometown: West Valley City, Utah 

Years Played: 2005-2008 

Feinga was a former Utah Gatorade Player of the Year out of Hunter High School. He signed with BYU and was a dominant offensive guard for the Cougars. 

Feinga was a two-time All-MWC First Team selection along the offensive lines for BYU that protected QB Max Hall.

87. Byron Rex

BYU Football, Byron Rex

Tight End 

Hometown: Bellflower, California 

Years Played: 1990-1992 

Byron Rex was a second-team All-American at tight end for BYU in 1992 and a two-time First-Team All-WAC selection. 

During Rex’s decorated career, he hauled in 87 receptions and had 1,209 receiving yards for seven touchdowns. 

In Rex’s senior year against Utah, he threw a touchdown pass and hauled in another to help BYU clinch a share of the WAC title.

86. Isaac Rex

BYU Football, Isaac Rex

Tight End 

Hometown: San Clemente, California 

Years Played: 2019-2023 

Isaac Rex can lay claim within the Rex family as the top tight end. Isaac, the son of Byron Rex, was always a BYU guy growing up and wanted to play for the Cougars. 

He became the program’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions among tight ends with 24. 

Rex had a breakout season as a redshirt freshman in 2020 with 12 touchdown grabs. 

The 6-foot-6, 240-pound pass catcher suffered a scary leg injury at USC in 2021 but continued to be productive in his next two years as BYU’s starting tight end.

85. Blake Freeland

BYU Football, Blake Freeland

Offensive Tackle 

Hometown: Herriman, Utah 

Years Played: 2019-2022 

Freeland played nearly every position you can imagine –including quarterback- during his prep career at Herriman High School. 

The one spot where he didn’t take snaps as a high school star was along the offensive line. 

Despite the lack of snaps on the offensive line, BYU saw a future star in the trenches. Freeland picked BYU over Utah and then became a star offensive tackle for the Cougars. 

Freeland was thrust into action in 2019 against Boise State, where he lined up against one of the nation’s top pass rushers. 

He never looked back as one of the starters. 

In 2021, he switched from right tackle to left tackle, protecting the blindside for QB Jaren Hall.

84. Dick Felt

Dick Felt

Halfback 

Hometown: Lehi, Utah 

Years Played: 1952-1955 

Felt is a BYU Hall of Famer who earned All-Conference recognition in 1955 at halfback. 

He played professional football for seven years as part of the AFL. 

Felt was also a longtime assistant coach under Tommy Hudspeth and later LaVell Edwards.

83. Bart Oates

Bart Oates

Center 

Hometown: Albany, Georgia 

Years Played: 1977, 1980-1982 

Oates earned Second Team All-American recognition in 1982 from the center position. That was one year after battling an ankle injury that limited him during the 1981 season. 

Oates was inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame in 1992.

82. Jernaro Gilford

Jernaro Gilford

Cornerback 

Hometown: Hawthorne, California 

Years Played: 1999, 2001-2003 

One of the top cornerbacks in BYU football history, Gilford started 28 games for the Cougars. 

A highlight moment in Gilford’s career was the game-sealing interception against Utah in 2001, which kept BYU’s undefeated season intact. That took place in a game in which Gilford injured his knee early in the first quarter. 

Gilford finished the 2001 season with six interceptions and was ranked sixth nationally in picks. 

During his four seasons at BYU, Gilford finished with 10 interceptions, which ranks 10th all-time in program history.

81. Cameron Jensen

Cameron Jensen

Linebacker 

Hometown: Bountiful, Utah 

Years Played: 2004-2006 

One of the last star transfers from Ricks College was Cameron Jensen. 

A former Bountiful High star, Jensen played a season at Ricks then served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia. After his mission, he committed to play for BYU, turning down Oklahoma, UCLA, and others. 

Upon his arrival in 2004, Jensen was an immediate starter at middle linebacker for Bronco Mendenhall’s defense. 

In Jensen’s first season at BYU, he had 103 tackles. His play earned the nickname “The General.” 

Jensen was one of the key individuals who established the culture under Bronco Mendenhall. 

A breakthrough win in building up Mendenhall’s BYU program was in 2006 at TCU. Jensen had a 13-tackle performance against a nationally-ranked TCU squad in Ft. Worth. 

Jensen finished his BYU career with 294 tackles and six sacks.

80. Rodney Thomas

Rodney Thomas

Defensive Back 

Hometown: Ontario, California 

Years Played: 1984-1987 

Rodney Thomas was a three-year starter at cornerback for the Cougars. Thomas earned Honorable Mention All-American recognition in 1986.  

One of Thomas’ highlight performances was his senior year in 1987 when he picked off Utah’s Chris Mendonca for a pick-six touchdown.

79. Chris Hoke

Chris Hoke

Defensive Tackle 

Hometown: Santa Ana, California 

Years Played: 1997-2000 

Chris Hoke was an All-MWC defensive tackle for the Cougars. His pass-rushing ability made Hoke a terror from the interior of BYU’s line. 

Hoke had 13 sacks and 38 tackles for loss during his four seasons at BYU. 

During his career, Hoke had two games where he recorded two sacks (Virginia 1999, Utah State 2000).

78. Daniel Sorensen

Daniel Sorensen

Safety/Linebacker 

Hometown: Colton, California 

Years Played: 2008, 2011-2013 

Sorensen was a heralded West Coast recruit who received strong interest from programs in various power conferences. 

He signed with BYU and began his career as a linebacker, where he showed flashes of his immense potential with 17 tackles and an interception against Wyoming. 

When Sorensen returned, he anchored the “KAT” position in Bronco Mendenhall’s 3-4 defense and was an immediate starter after he returned home from his mission. 

One of the highlights of Sorensen’s career was an interception in a blowout 41-17 win at Georgia Tech in 2012. 

Sorensen finished his career with eight interceptions, 211 tackles, three forced fumbles, and 22 pass breakups at BYU.

77. Margin Hooks

Margin Hooks

Wide Receiver 

Hometown: Waco, Texas 

Years Played: 1997-2000 

Hooks, along with Ohio State’s David Boston, were among the top receivers from Texas High School Football in the class of 1996. The Waco native signed with BYU and became a star receiver for the Cougars. 

Hooks had 2,841 receiving yards and 14 touchdown grabs in his four seasons at BYU.  

That puts Hooks fifth all-time in BYU history for receiving yards. 

One of the notable catches was his 83-yard TD from Kevin Feterik against UNLV in 1998. Another was his 77-yard catch against Utah in 1999 to put the Cougars in front early in the third quarter. 

Hooks had ten games where he reached the century mark in yards.

76. Kyle Whittingham

BYU Football, Kyle Whittingham

Linebacker 

Hometown: Provo, Utah 

Years Played: 1978-1981 

He might be the number one public enemy for BYU fans today since he’s the head coach at rival Utah. But Kyle Whittingham was a star player for the Cougars. 

Whittingham was the WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 1981 recording 132 tackles, seven sacks, three forced fumbles, eight pass breakups, and nine quarterback hurries. 

A local standout at Provo High, Whittingham played for his father, Fred Whittingham, the defensive coordinator for BYU at the time. Initially, Whittingham was looking at playing fullback for BYU, so he didn’t have to play under his father, but it worked out as he totaled 272 tackles, 10 sacks, and six forced fumbles as an inside linebacker for the Cougars.

Numbers 51-75 on the BYU Football Greatest Players of All-Time list will be revealed on Wednesday, May 8.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and hosts the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Football’s 100 Greatest Players Of All-Time: Nos. 76-100