For two weeks, BYU sophomore Masen Wake kept his tribute to his mother covered up, waiting for just the right moment to unveil it.
That time arrived last Friday when the walk-on fullback/tight end scored the go-ahead touchdown at Houston. He lifted his jersey to reveal a T-shirt that read in bold, blue lettering: REST IN HEAVEN MOM.
The moment spread on social media, with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes dazzled by the underhanded shovel pass to Wake and Cougars fans moved by Wake's devotion to his mom, who died of cancer when he was 8 years old.
“Everything I do is to make her more proud,” said Wake, whose 12th-ranked Cougars (5-0) host Texas State (1-5) on Saturday. “She’s made me who I am today.”
He always carries the spirit of his mom with him on the field.
The 6-foot-1, 250-pound player from Cedar Hills, Utah, writes “Mom” on the inside of both cleats and across his arm. He also pounds his heart before pointing to the sky each time he scores in a tradition dating back as far as he can remember.
“I know she’s proud of me,” said Wake, whose mom, Pam, died of cervical cancer on Jan. 10, 2009, at 38. “I know she’s with me each and every day and I like to live life that way."
The idea for his recent tribute was inspired by Packers linebacker Za’Darius Smith, who displayed a “Rest in Heaven Breonna Taylor” shirt following a sack on “Monday Night Football” earlier this month.
For a version dedicated to his mom, Wake enlisted the help of his older brother, Austin, who works at a printing company. He wore the shirt for the UTSA game but the moment didn't present itself.
So he waited.
At Houston last Friday, the Cougars were trailing 26-21 and had the ball at the 8 yard line when quarterback Zach Wilson drifted to his right. Wilson tossed an underhanded pass to an open Wake, who hurdled a defender at the goal line for the go-ahead score in a 43-26 win.
The creative pass was straight out of the Mahomes playbook, with the 2018 NFL MVP even commenting on Twitter: “Well Done!”
In the back of the end zone, Wake celebrated by lifting his jersey to reveal his tribute. He later posted the photo on Twitter, adding “Love you mama." So many warm regards followed.
At home watching was his father, Todd. He fought back tears when he saw the display.
“It’s one thing to lose a parent, but it’s another to lose a mom,” his father said. “You feel their pain.”
Wake's the sort of player who doesn’t seek the spotlight. In high school at Lone Peak, his team hosted barbecues for the players and parents to mingle with fans after games. He would show up for five minutes and quietly slip out the back to go home.
He's also the player who postponed a recruiting trip to take a friend, who suffers from cerebral palsy, to a high school dance. The images of him dancing with her while she was in a wheelchair remain some of his father's most cherished.
“I've always just been so proud of him,” his dad said.
At BYU, Wake's become renown for hurdling defenders. It’s a skill he developed as a tailback, when he was such a challenge to bring down that everyone lunged for his ankles. To avoid that, he simply jumped out of tackles.
The tactic served him well in high school, where he had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
It’s definitely serving him well now as a hybrid fullback/tight end, where he does a little bit of everything for the Cougars.
Here's a little secret: Wake was a passionate Boise State fan as a kid. He was always wearing Broncos gear.
“I can count on two hands how many times he didn't wear Boise State clothes to school,” his dad joked.
Wake even took a recruiting visit to Boise State. It didn't pan out. He had other offers on the table — most schools wanted to move him to linebacker — but he liked the message from BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, who was also once a fullback for the Cougars.
Sitake had innovative plans for Wake.
Over two seasons, the preferred walk-on has rushed seven times for 21 yards and two scores. He's also caught seven passes for 88 yards and a TD.
A scholarship could be waiting for him down the road.
Really, though, all he's thinking about is playing his role.
That and honoring mom.
“The trials I’ve been through have made me stronger," Wake said. “Everything I do is for her.”
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