A Fan Thank You to Jay Omer

staff-Jay-OmerI’ll be the first to admit that even as a pretty hard-core BYU football fan I know very little about soon to be retired strength and conditioning coach Jay Omer. I know that he’s done some pretty radical, revolutionary, and controversial things during his last decade or so in Provo. I remember that he fattened up our O-Line and then, more recently, he slimmed them back down. I’m pretty sure that most of the players and coaches like him. And that’s about it. Like most BYU fans I was clueless to the rest of the details about life and career. So I looked it up and here’s what I found.

Let’s start with the obvious. Omer has had a 43 year career in athletics at six different universities and three schools at the K-12 level. At BYU—where he spent his last 14 years—he implemented and directed all weight training and conditioning programs for the football team and mentored strength and conditioning coaches in the other sports programs. The rest of his work history is outlined in the table below.

Work History:

University Years Position Notes
Brigham Young 2000-2014 Head Strength & Conditioning Coach
Georgia Tech University 1993-2000 Director of player development oversaw strength and conditioning program for GT’s 16-sport athletics program
Washington State University 1990-1993 Strength and Conditioning coach
East Carolina University 1987-1990 Director of Strength and Conditioning
Tulane 1985-87 Assistant strength coach
Auburn University 1984-85 Graduate Assistant National Strength research Center, volunteered with Auburns strength program
Union High School 1976-1984 head coach and athletic director
Soda Springs High School 1974-76 coach
Soda springs Jr. High 1972-74 coach

Education:

  • Ed, Auburn University (1985), Education, emphasis in exercise physiology and strength training
  • A., Southern Utah University (1972), Physical Education and History
  • Snow College (1969), all-conference offensive lineman
  • Orem HS (1967)

Recognition:

  • Named Strength and Conditioning Professional of the Year, AAC (1997)

Personal:

  • Married to Vicki Reynolds, has two daughters, Nissa and Keely and two sons, Joe and Travis. 10 grandchildren.

So in combing through all the recent releases from all the Utah newspapers and BYUcougars.com, that is about all you can find. Oh, that and these two quotes:

“I have so many thoughts and special memories of everywhere I have been and everyone I have worked with,” Omer said in a school news release. “I’ve been very, very lucky. BYU is a special place and I feel fortunate to have been able to come back and finish my career at this university.”

BYU football head coach Bronco Mendenhall said Omer will be missed.

“Weight training and conditioning is an integral part of a football program, and I want to express my gratitude to Jay for his dedicated service to our players over the years,” Mendenhall said. “We still have some work ahead of us this season, but I’m happy for Jay and Vicki and wish them every happiness as they soon begin the next chapter in their lives.”

So, that’s where the local news reporting ends. It doesn’t tell us much… Omer was a strength coach that worked for a long time and is now retiring. However, if you pay close attention to some of the details there is more to this story. Omer was upwardly mobile throughout his career, from K-12 coaching to graduate assistant to climbing the ranks to his ultimate landing place as the director of strength and conditioning. He was willing to move his family around (six different states while his children were being raised) in pursuit of the best opportunities. He also continued his education (Master’s degree in 1985, part way into his coaching career).That all tells us a lot. He was committed to excellence and worked hard to help hundreds of athletes improve their skills and their lives.

Of course if we dig around on fan sites like Cougarboard we also learn that he was a polarizing figure, loved by many but also disliked by many. That comes with the territory, no coach or trainer is universally loved.

The whole story

A little more digging turns up a few details about Jay Omer the man. A 2012 Daily Herald article details Omer’s return to Atlanta for a game versus Georgia Tech. It notes that three of his four children still live in the Atlanta area and that Omer’s greatest disappointment from his return trip was that he couldn’t see his grandson play high school football (because they had a bye that week). Omer obviously loves his family very much. He also expressed gratitude for having had the chance to live in Atlanta. His expression of gratitude was a theme I saw across several interviews he has done over the years.

After being hired by Gary Crowton (who he worked with earlier at Georgia Tech) it seems like there were only good things to say about Omer. Dick Harmon, sportswriter for the Daily Herald said: “He’s demanding yet caring; hard-driving yet compassionate. He gets athletes to believe in themselves and their teammates. He knows how to create competition in the ranks and weld it into team chemistry.”

Head basketball coach Steve Cleveland added: “in my five years, it’s the most excited and committed I’ve seen my players in the weight room since I’ve been here. They are committed. I mean being there and working.”

And BYU athletic director Val Hale recalled the day word got out the Cougars had hired Omer. He got a phone call from one of the most respected athletic directors in college sports, then in the Pac-10. “I just wanted you to know,” said the AD, “you guys just hired one of the best strength coaches in America. He will turn around your programs immediately.”

Finally, Total Blue Sports editor R. Leuma Schwenke had this to say about Omer back in 2003: “You can credit strength and conditioning coach Jay Omer for at least one win per year. The players and coaches know how lucky they are to have Omer on BYU’s coaching staff. He is the man they love to hate until they perform to their peak during games. It’s a testament to his effectiveness that defensive players would sooner run and participate in Mendenhall’s exhaustive drills than spend practices on the sidelines with Omer. The superior conditioning of BYU athletes will result in multiple turnovers that will win games this year and every year. Give Omer his due.”

So here is me giving Mr. Omer his due… Thank you Jay for 14 years of dedicated service to BYU athletics. I appreciate your hard work and determination, for setting the bar high for BYU athletes and for helping them to reach that bar. More importantly, thank you for your commitment to your family and your faith and for being a true man of character. You will be missed.

Sincerely,
A BYU fan

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