What I learned about BYU football from convicts and addicts this week.
I had to listen to most of the first half of BYU vs. Baylor on the radio. I did something on Saturday morning that I never ever do - I prioritized something over an actual BYU football game.
Let's go back in time a week.
I have been building a house for the last year and I finally got to move in this week. But, as it is with many home builds, it was chaos as we approached the finish line. I actually signed and closed on the house on October 8, but as of Monday, October 11, my house wasn't close. We had no shower glass. No mirrors. They had torn all of the kitchen floor up, recognizing that they forgot to put down padding underneath the wood. Finish carpenters still had a list of things to do. Painters hadn't painted everything. It was chaos.
All the while, it was time to pack up my old house and move. The woman who bought my house had graciously allowed us to live there for the last three months, rent free. But she had to move in this week, and I didn't have the guts to ask her for more time.
Anxiety. Stress. Panic. All the words.
On Tuesday morning, the movers showed up. They finished the kitchen floor on Tuesday morning before we showed up. The painters and finish carpenters were still there while we were moving in. It was hectic.
The movers were exceptional. They were kind, quick, efficient, and took great care of all of our stuff. But, it was after the moving that things - all the chaotic life things - started to come into focus.
I bought lunch for the movers and invited them to eat at our kitchen table rather than in their moving truck on the road. They agreed and we sat down for the better part of an hour and got to know them. Early in the lunch, one of them asked, "So how much do you guys know about Red Barn?"
We knew Red Barn was our moving company and we knew that they were some sort of a rehab facility for recovering addicts or other criminal-related things, but we didn't know details. These four movers filled us in.
"I have been battling drug addiction since I was 10 years old. I have been in jail and prison more times than I can count. I currently have 15 years of prison time hanging over my head, but I elected to come to Red Barn instead," one of them said.
"Most of my charges in my life - wait, all of them - have been aggravated charges. I currently have eight years over my head," another said.
"I have six years. I have been addicted to serious drugs since I was 12. I have a daughter. None of the prison time or rehab centers have helped so far. So I'm trying Red Barn - and I'm six months clean."
"I have no prison time. I'm a walk-in. I was the guy you would see at a gas station and hold your kids close to you and double check that you had your wallet. I've been battling addition for 24 of my 35 years of life. I had to get clean and Red Barn helped. I'm two years sober now," the last one told us.
The men went in depth about their stories. I couldn't believe how powerful they were.
These men were criminals and addicts. And they were some of the most kind, genuine, and motivated people that I've ever seen in my life. They would do anything to get their lives back on track. All of the chaos that surrounded me in the house went away. I was captivated.
After lunch, I got the bill. It was cheap, at least by mover standards, and I wanted to leave a tip for the workers.
"You are more than welcome to tip us, but we don't keep it ourselves. It all goes back into the program. In fact, we don't get a dollar of wages for this. It's all service and part of our rehab. Every dollar goes back to the program. If you'd like, there is an event this Saturday and you can come see what all of the money goes to," the lead mover told us.
Saturday came and we prioritized this trip. We went to the Red Barn Academy in Farmington, UT. There was a small farm. There was a car show. There were food trucks, and gardens, and all kinds of different things. We linked up with the four movers who we knew. We were introduced to several other students at Red Barn and learned their stories - aggravated assault, possession with the intent to distribute, all kinds of burglary charges, just about everything you can think of that was not sexual misconduct or murder related.
They took my kids into their animal barn. I watched these men - convicted criminals with active jail time looming - play with my kids and a bunch of goats. And they loved it.
We went on a tour. The founder of Red Barn Academy lost his son to addiction about 10 years ago. It was a horrible tragedy. He was determined that it be more than a tragedy, though. He couldn't stand the fact that his son's death was just that - a terrible tragedy and death.
He used it as inspiration. He sold land. He sacrificed time. He donated millions and founded the Red Barn Academy. Now, he has helped hundreds of men battling their own addiction issues save their own lives.
The tragedy of his son's passing remains, but the results of that terrible event are sensational.
The most shocking thing about Red Barn was that I didn't see a single therapist. There were no counselors or doctors. There were just a bunch of men trying to do better because they wanted to be better.
"Each one, teach one."
The men held each other accountable. The men wanted to do better for themselves, but they knew they needed help in order to get there. One of them told me that their roommates were their 'standard keepers.' When he fell short of what he was supposed to do, his roommates called on him to be better. The conversations got heated, but everything came from a place of love. They were all there with the same objective in mind - to get better and get back on track.
Who better to get them back on track than themselves?
That's what I was doing on Saturday morning. That's why I missed the first half of the game.
This is a BYU newsletter. Why do you care about my moving experience? Why do you care about the lives of these strangers who you don't know?
Truth be told, you don't.
But this story was inspiring to me. It made me want to try harder. It made me want to be better. It made me want a lot of things.
Obviously, this is a much bigger deal than football. But, after I returned home from Red Barn on Saturday afternoon and watched the second half of BYU's loss to Baylor, I couldn't help but be surprised at how different the feeling was.
The men at Red Barn were willing to do anything and give up everything to help the person next to them.
I didn't see that from BYU football against Baylor. I didn't see that from BYU football against Boise State.
We saw it against Utah. We saw it against Arizona State - I mean, hello, Tyler Allgeier punching that fumble saved the game. That play was all about effort.
That level of effort seems to be lacking. That level of sacrifice seems to be lacking.
Right now, the team looks a little intimidated, a little shell-shocked, and a little soft.
There are coaching issues that need to be resolved, for sure. There are certain plays that need to be executed better and certain situations where the play calling was iffy, but more than anything, this team needs to be a little more like my newfound heroes at Red Barn.
They need urgency.
They need sacrifice.
They need heated words from a place of love.
They need to come together and change the direction of where things are headed.
Kalani Sitake could take over the defense or making a coaching change. But we've seen the schemes work as recently as last month. The scheme issues and things that fans are calling for are offseason fixes to problems when the emotion of losses are in the rear view mirror.
The changes that will enable BYU to win on Saturday in Pullman, WA need to come from the heart and they need to come from the players.
I saw that kind of desperation firsthand on Saturday. I witnessed men changing for no reason other than they want to. They had a choice - for some it was prison and for others it was a life of disappointment - but they chose to go to Red Barn. They chose to move people's homes, to care for goats and chickens, and to live for the man next to them. No doctors. No therapists. Nothing else. Just men wanting to change their lives. And it was working.
The men on BYU's roster have that same kind of ability and that same kind of power. They didn't utilize that power against Baylor on Saturday. They have to find it within themselves to use that power against Washington State.