Brian Billick, who led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl championship as a head coach in 2000, arrived at BYU in the 1970s.
He wasn’t a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and didn’t know much about the school or the school’s sponsoring church.
Billick had spent his freshman year as a linebacker at the Air Force Academy. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder transferred to BYU to play tight end, telling friends that he left Air Force because he realized, after enrolling there, that he was too tall to become a fighter pilot.
But he didn’t know what he was getting into at BYU — which made for some amusing misunderstandings.
Once I had the opportunity to interview Billick, and I asked him about his adjustment to BYU when he first arrived.
“I’m thinking, ‘This must be a co-theological university. There’s the Mormons and the LDS.’ I go on like this for a couple of weeks, not piecing it together.” —Brian Billick, former BYU football player
“I knew that it was a Mormon school,” he recalled. “I’ll tell you an embarrassing story. I got up there in January. I’m new and lost and I don’t know what’s going on. I came out of the Air Force Academy, so I had short hair. They automatically think, ‘This guy’s going to fit right in.’ I’m sizing it all up and I’m at the Smith Fieldhouse and I see all these guys running around with ‘LDS’ on their shirts, which I had come to learn is Latter-day Saints. Well, I’m thinking, ‘This must be a co-theological university. There’s the Mormons and the LDS.’ I go on like this for a couple of weeks, not piecing it together.
“I get to the dining hall and there was a young lady. Being a red-blooded American young male, I sat down and struck up a conversation, trying to make small talk. I ask her, ‘Are you Mormon or are you LDS?’ She looks at me and says, ‘You’re a football player, aren’t you?’ I learned very quickly that they were the same. But it was an easy transition because of the people. I really enjoyed my time there, once I learned the similarities between the Mormons and the LDS.”
Billick is regarded as the first great tight end at BYU. He was the first BYU All-America tight end, preceding selections like Clay Brown, Gordon Hudson, David Mills, Trevor Molini, Chris Smith, Byron Rex, Chad Lewis, Jonny Harline and Dennis Pitta.
After Billick left coaching, he became a broadcaster. He’s currently an analyst for the NFL Network and NFL.com.
While Billick is not LDS, because of his ties to BYU, there are people who think he is.
“There are a lot of assumptions that way, which is fine with me,” he says. “I’m very proud of my time at BYU. The fact I’m not a member of the Church doesn’t mitigate the fact that I have a huge respect for the Church and its people. My closest advisers now, friends and financially, are all members of the Church. I’ve made some great friendships there.”