Utah State senior defensive end has enjoyed the whole experience of being a student-athlete

Hawaii offensive lineman Sean Shigematsu, left, battles Utah State defensive end B.J. Larsen (99) in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

LOGAN, Utah – Most of the time, the process of becoming a Division I football player is pretty standard. There is a set timeline for recruiting and the work coaches and players put in to making the transition from high school.

For senior defensive end B.J. Larsen, the road to his Utah State career was an unconventional one. Un-recruited out of high school, Larsen thought his playing days were probably over. He left Cache Valley to serve a mission for the LDS church in Little Rock, Ark. While serving in a Spanish speaking area, Larsen is quick to joke about the benefits that come from immersing himself in the culture.

“When you go Spanish speaking, you eat a lot of Mexican food and gain a lot of weight,” Larsen said. “I came back and thought I could maybe play some ball. I walked on up here and the rest is history.”

Larsen knows that he wouldn’t have been able to get to where he is without the help of several important people in his life. He is quick to credit his parents and high school coach.

“My parents were a big influence, as was Mike Favero, my coach at Logan High School,” Larsen said. “They encouraged me and knew what I was capable of. They were big influences that got me to where I am today.”

Larsen is one of 10 Cache Valley natives on the Utah State team this season. While some kids long to leave home and move elsewhere, he was happy to stay and be a part of the program he’d grown up cheering for.

“It’s a lot of fun to be able to play college football in your hometown. Logan is the definition of a college town where everything revolves around Utah State. To be able to play in front of people you grew up with, people who have influenced you, is really rewarding,” Larsen said. “I feel like I can kind of give back to the community and show thanks to them. I can show everyone how much I love and appreciate them by the way I play on the field and in the way I carry myself off the field.”

Now, Larsen is able to share the Aggie experience with his younger brother, Derek, a freshman linebacker on the team.

“It’s a lot of fun to have him here. We missed each other in high school by one year, so this is the first time we’ve been able to be on the same team,” Larsen said. “He’s a hard worker and knows the importance of teamwork. I think he’ll make a name for himself.”

With a brother on the same team, it’s an instant commonality that ties the family together.

“It’s neat to go home for Sunday dinner and be able to talk about everything as a family,” Larsen said.

While Larsen came into the Aggie program as a walk-on, it wasn’t long before the coaching staff saw his potential. After a redshirt year and the following summer of training, Larsen was rewarded with a scholarship. While plenty of student-athletes can and do get through their careers without a full scholarship, it is a nice benefit and says a lot to a player about the faith the coaches have in them.

“It’s nice to get that status,” Larsen said. “You know they value you and want to invest in you.”

As a fifth-year senior, Larsen is one of the oldest and most experienced members of the Aggie program. He has been with the team through the overhaul and revamping of the program. He has used those years to become a strong leader and a major contributor.

“My role is to be an example to the younger guys of how we play Aggie football. I teach them how to run the ball, how to workout in the off-season, how to take care of themselves academically,” Larsen said. “I’m doing the best I can in those areas. Hopefully I can set a good example for the new Aggies coming in, and to those who are already here, to push themselves and always strive to become a better student-athlete.”

Ikaika Malloe, USU’s defensive line coach is grateful for the work Larsen puts in and the example he sets.

“B.J. is our vocal leader, he’s our example. He’s been here for a long time, so we expect a lot from him. He’s taken over some of our meetings. He’s also a leader in what he does on the field,” Malloe said. “I’m going to miss what he brings to the table both physically and mentally. Our defense will miss that as well.”

Larsen has been through a lot in the five years he’s been at Utah State. Through the ups and downs, he has learned how to react and respond to certain situations. Now, he takes the things he has learned and applies them to current experiences.

“It brings a lot of maturity in how to respond in high-pressure situations. I feel like a lot of the younger guys can look up to me in that area,” Larsen said. “I know how to maintain composure on and off the field to stay even-keeled. I can make sure we’re doing our jobs right to help us get to the Mountain West championship that we all want. Hopefully I can help the other guys be the same way.”

In the time he has been here, there have been major changes in the atmosphere of Utah State football.

“When I first came in here, there was a culture change that took place. That can be attributed to the coaching staffs that we have had. At Utah State, we’re guys that are willing to put forth the extra effort to fulfill our assignments. We work hard in season and in the off-season, in the weight room and in the film room to make sure that we’re in that position to do that. We’re able to execute and have the heart to follow through,” Larsen said. “The number one memory for me is definitely beating BYU on the road this season. I’m going to have bragging rights for that for the rest of my life, that I was able to do that my senior year.”

While there are specific memories that stand out throughout his career, there is more to be taken from Larsen’s time as an Aggie, including the bachelor’s degree he has already received from USU in business administration.

“It’s not a moment, but just the whole experience of the brotherhood that has been formed in the five years I’ve been here. It’s a special experience that I’ll be able to carry with me for the rest of my life,” Larsen said. “That will always be there.”

Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on Facebook at Utah State Football, as well as on Instagram at instagram.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.

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