PROVO, Utah — Homecoming is heartwarming here at Brigham Young University. This week's pep rally featured root beer chugging and ice cream eating contests, and, as part of their "Lick the Aztecs" campaign, BYU boosters gave a prize to anyone who could reach the middle of a tootsie pop without biting.
That was music to Todd Santos' ears.
"Sounds like everyone got together and had a great time," said San Diego State quarterback Santos, a Mormon who would have become a Cougar had they asked him to. "You don't have to drink to have fun. Alcohol is bad for you, and I don't believe in it. Drinking beer won't change things for you."
In so many ways, Todd Santos belongs here. He belongs in this university, where the priorities are (a) church, (b) passing the football and (c) winning (they romped over the Aztecs 28-0 on Saturday). Anyway, Santos thinks like they do. He's just as apt to throw on third and one as he is to throw on third and 21.
"I'm Mormon, and, of course, I'd have liked to have come here," he said.
But he also said: "I'm happy in San Diego. I was disappointed about it before. Kind of depressed . . . But there was a reason for me being at San Diego State. I don't know why yet, but there's a reason."
First of all, it has sort of matured him. After a nice little high school career in nice little Selma, Calif. (population: 7,500), some Pacific 10 schools contacted him, as did BYU. A Cougar assistant named Ted Tollner--now USC's head coach--saw him and liked him. But they liked another quarterback from the state of Utah better.
"Sorry, son," they told Santos.
"Recruiting's really funny," Santos said after Saturday's game, in which he was 20 of 37 for 178 yards, which was 5 completions and 74 yards fewer than his antagonist, Robbie Bosco, who also threw 37 passes. "There are a lot of good players out there that I see, and they don't even get recruited."
Eventually, San Diego State wanted him, but, had a definite problem.
They had no scholarships.
So they told him to wait a semester, and he did, working with his brother in the cotton business. Finally, he arrived in town, but was lonely and homesick and had whatever other freshman symptoms there are.
"I thought about going back home," he said. "I was homesick, being that I was in a close family. But it worked out for the best."
Meeting Richard Brown helped.
Brown, a linebacker, is a Mormon, too, and they had a common problem: a lot of people at SDSU wanted to party and they couldn't, since strict Mormons don't curse or drink alcohol or beverages with caffeine.
"It's a party school," Santos said. "People said 'Let's go to bars,' but I was turned off by that. I spent a lot of time by myself. But I met Richard, and we did things together."
Said Brown: "I've never, never drank a beer. I've never smoked. It's hard with people tempting you, but your good friends will help you. They won't tempt you."