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Jeff Allred photo, Deseret News photo
Jake Oldroyd, a walk-on freshman with no experience and hardly any repetitions in practice, celebrates after a game-winning field goal in BYU's 2016 season opener against Arizona.
Even my teammates were asking me who he was. —Jonny Linehan on Jake Oldroyd

PROVO — It was the kick that launched a nine-win season.

Walk-on Jake Oldroyd’s heroic game-winning 33-yard field goal as the clock wound down at University of Phoenix Stadium a year ago lifted BYU to an 18-16 win over Arizona. It is a moment frozen in time, the first win for new head coach Kalani Sitake, and it ushered in a new chapter in Cougar football history.

Oldroyd wasn’t supposed to even be on the road trip that day. He was barely known by a few of his teammates, who kept asking punter and friend Jonny Linehan, “Who is this guy, and can he make it?”

Yes, said Linehan. “He’s good from 60, and he’ll make it.”

Linehan didn’t even feel like he needed to look at the play; he just listened to the roar of the crowd and knew that Oldroyd had come through. It was Linehan who’d lobbied coach Ed Lamb to put Oldroyd on the plane. He didn’t even have any kicking cleats because there were only two size 12s, and Linehan got them. Oldroyd brought his green cleats from home, the same trusty cleats he used at storied Southlake Carroll High School in Texas, just in case, and they were the tools for the game-winning kick.

Just three weeks earlier, Linehan was sitting in church when he got a text from Oldroyd, asking him to come to his dorm room quickly, he’d hurt himself stretching. “I heard something pop in my knee,” he told Linehan, who ended up carrying Oldroyd on his back down some stairs to his car; Oldroyd had torn his meniscus and sprained the MCL in his knee, and it required orthoscopic surgery.

On Sept. 17, two weeks after that dramatic, game-winning kick, Oldroyd hurt his already aggravated back during warmups before the UCLA game in Provo. While he attempted a 50-yarder against the Bruins, he was injured. He didn’t kick for the Cougars again that season but did receive a medical redshirt for 2016.

When the 2016 season ended, Oldroyd accepted an LDS mission call to South America to serve in the Chile Osorno Mission.

Today Oldroyd is eight months into his full-time church service. He is in Quellon on the island of Chiloe after assignments in Villarrica and Puerto Cisnes. According to his parents, Matt and Jennifer Oldroyd, their son hasn’t met any football players also serving in Chile, but wherever he goes, BYU football fans have come up to talk and greet him.

“Jake is thriving on his mission — spiritually and physically,” said Matt.

“He has found a way to teach the gospel while exercising. He was given permission to use the gym around the corner from where he lives. He and his companion have set two goals: to work out in the mornings and to baptize the owner.

With a city background in Chile, Elder Jake Oldroyd poses for a photograph during his time eight months into his service. | Oldroyd family photo

“Prior to being able to go to the gym, he was getting creative by putting books in bags to make dumbbells. He seems to really be enjoying his mission, making the work fun and that keeps him energized.”

Oldroyd has picked up the language quickly and has been mistaken for a native Chilean over the phone. He plays the piano in church services and zone activities, having played for 15 years.

In a message to his family, Oldroyd said he and his companion have tried “creative ways” to approach and teach people in Chile.

“My companion and I are having fun by making creative contacts with random objects,” he wrote:

“One day, we were walking down a hill and a lady was walking up. When we were about 50 yards away, my companion hands me a leaf and says, ‘Talk to her using this.’ I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ So I've got about 15 seconds to think of a way to teach this random lady with a leaf. First of all, I have to get her to stop. It's really hard when you're walking past someone to get them to stop. … Then, I have to teach her a lesson using a leaf.

“I stopped her successfully, and began to talk to her (this was made easier because she was exhausted from walking up the hill), and she was quite receptive. She said she was a religious person and wanted to get back to church. Then I talked about how even if we're not going to church or making the best choices to follow God's commandments, it's difficult to lose faith when we constantly have the manifestation of God's power in his creations all around us. And then … I pulled out the leaf! I held it up to her, and she said ‘Yeah, exactly!’ We talked a little more, and then I got her phone number, her address, and she said she'd go to General Conference!"

Linehan keeps in touch with Oldroyd through emails this past year. “He’s one of my best friends. “I wish I could email him every week, but I’ve been so busy. I read all his emails he sends home to his family.”

Linehan says he always tells Oldroyd he’s a legend back at BYU and he can’t wait for him to return.

That night in Arizona, Linehan recalls, BYU fans in the stands asked him who Oldroyd was after seeing him kick.

“Even my teammates were asking me who he was.”

After the game-winning kick, Linehan didn’t rush Oldroyd with the rest of the team to celebrate — that would come later. “I had no doubt in my mind he’d make it. He has a great leg, and he proved it on that game-winner and the next week against Utah.”

Oldroyd’s father found out at halftime that his son was going to start the second half.

“Based on the score and how the game was trending in the second half, I was fearful that it would come down to a last second field goal," he said. "I was hoping that BYU would get a touchdown earlier so that his first college kick would be a PAT, but no such luck. When they got into field goal range and Arizona called timeout, I prayed like never before that Jake would do his best. Once I saw the ball go through the goalpost, the feeling was incredible. I was so happy for him. I still get chills when I watch it. Few people know his story and how hard he worked to be ready for the Arizona game. “

Matt remembers fans around them didn’t know it was their son Jake who kicked the game winner until afterward.

“Then we were mobbed. I didn't have a chance to talk to Jake immediately after the game, but we made eye contact before he went into the locker room, and I was able to tell him how proud of him I was. Even though the two 40-plus yard field goals at Utah were longer and in a more hostile environment, I thought the kick versus Arizona was much more challenging since he had no reps with the team that week. “

Jennifer remembers when it was clear the outcome of the Arizona game would come down to a kick by Jake, she could hardly breathe. She experienced an inexplicable suffocating feeling that overwhelmed her.

The pressure was that big.

“I felt the weight of all of Cougar Nation on my shoulders, and I knew he was either going to be loved or hated,” said Jennifer.

“I know what my boy can do. I know he's got ice in his veins. I knew he could make that kick in his sleep, and I knew he knew it," she said. "But the pressure was unlike anything I've ever felt, and I couldn't watch. I just sat with my head in my hands and sobbed and prayed and sobbed. And waited for noise — an explosion of noise that would confirm he had made the kick. And then it came — not just the noise, but the vibration of everyone jumping up and down. And in that moment, I knew I had done the right thing by asking the middle school football coach six years earlier if he would take a kid who only played one position, placekicker."