Logan • When Gary Andersen took the Utah State job in late 2008, one of the first things he did was set up a new supplement and nutrient program for his players.
At the time it probably seemed like the smallest and least consequential thing, showing college football players how to eat right, how to take proper care of themselves. But it shows exactly how much of an uphill climb Andersen had when he dropped his cushy gig as Utah's defensive coordinator to move to Logan.
Four years later, the Aggies are the best college football story in Utah, finishing the regular season 10-2, setting school records seemingly every game and looking for their first bowl win on Saturday in nearly two decades.
Considering where the program has been for generations, the about-face of USU football has been swift and decisive.
"We've come a long way," Andersen said. "But the credit goes to the kids. The players have made this a reality because they've worked hard and they've become a great team."
Andersen is typically effusive about others when speaking of USU's dramatic rise. But throughout the program, his imprint is there, highlighting his original, 2009 mission statement every step of the way.
He emphasized local recruiting, and defensively people like Jake Doughty, Zach Vigil, Jordan Nielsen, Al Lapuaho, Bojay Filimoeatu and McKade Brady all hail from the state. And that's not to mention guys like Jamie Markosian, Tyler Larsen and Cam Webb on offense.
Andersen beefed up both sides of the ball by emphasizing the recruiting of Pacific Islanders, and he established a missionary program that has paid off handsomely in the last two years.
"The program is just so much different than it used to be," senior tight end Kellen Bartlett said. "He's done everything and more than he said he would. He's a great coach."
Andersen's excitement about next season contributed heavily with his decision to spurn interest from Kentucky, Colorado and California and stay in Logan. As good as this team has been this season, he believes the Aggies have the chance to be as good or even better during USU's inaugural run through the Mountain West Conference.
People like running back Kerwynn Williams and receiver Matt Austin will graduate. But quarterback Chuckie Keeton will return, as will most of the offensive line and a big chunk of the defense.
"The future looks bright," Bartlett said. "I'm just glad to have been a part of what this team has accomplished."
Gary Andersen's record