LOGAN, Utah – Gerod Sawyer never forced his son to play football.A two-time letterwinner as a fullback at Utah State in the early 1970s, Sawyer instead let his son, Omar, explore a variety of sports while growing up. The younger Sawyer left no athletic event untested, trying his hand at everything from golf and hockey to basketball and track and field. Yet once Omar entered the halls of Ogden High School in Ogden, Utah, it became clear that the jack-of-all trades athlete would soon follow in his father’s footsteps.”My dad didn’t push me into football and left it open to me and let me do whatever it was that I wanted to do,” recalls Omar, who started three games at wide receiver for the Aggies last season. “I guess it was a good thing because he let me go out there and try new things. I just kind of found my calling with football though, but I didn’t really play football until I got to high school.”It was in high school that Sawyer blossomed as a wide receiver, garnering team MVP honors in 2004 and earning all-area accolades during his senior season. And while the elder Sawyer had been more than accommodating in letting his son discover his passion for football on his own, the former Aggie fullback wasn’t as impartial when it came time for Omar to decide on a university. A ‘True Blue Aggie,’ Gerod helped to nudge his son in the direction of Utah State, a factor made all the more important given the collegiate affiliations of his wife and Omar’s mother, Betty.”My mom went to the ‘U’ and got her masters at Utah,” explains Omar Sawyer. “My dad came up to Utah State for college so they would always butt heads, while I was being recruited. My mom always wanted me to go to Utah but he always pushed me to come up here to Logan.”Dad would end up winning out, as Omar enrolled at Utah State during the fall of 2005. Since then, the 5-foot-9, 179-pound receiver has grown closer to his father and has come to appreciate the lessons handed down by Gerod. Those lessons, says Omar, transcend strictly on-field pointers on route running or pass catching, and have helped Omar become a better Aggie both on and off the field.”That’s just him being a dad, especially with the off-field issues,” Omar says in reference to the advice he has received from his father. “He had to deal with the same things as a college athlete and would tell me that, ‘You need to watch out for certain things and be careful for certain things because you are a role model out there to people whether you want to be or not. People do look up to you.’ That was a good thing with him, and he let me know that. Plus he was a beast in college, so he gave me some skills and helped me out with my game as I came along.”The new offensive coaching staff at Utah State will be counting on Sawyer to put those skills on display this season. Since redshirting in 2005, Sawyer has caught 30 balls in three years, including a breakout campaign in 2008 in which he snagged 19 passes for 246 yards. While he has been one of the most reliable receivers on the team during the past three seasons, first-year offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin says that he expects even greater production out of Sawyer during the 2009 campaign.”Omar has a lot of experience, and this spring, I think he showed that he had play-making capabilities and big-play capabilities,” says Baldwin, who runs a wide-open spread offense that emphasizes speed and precision in the passing game. “He provides to us the explosion as a ‘Z’ receiver or as a flanker. He can make the big play, but at the same time he is solid catching the ball underneath. We drag our ‘Z’ receiver underneath of a lot of coverages in the West Coast system, and Omar is physical enough where he can catch the ball, and that’s the biggest thing.”Baldwin singled out Sawyer as one of the players who has stepped up and taken on a leadership role with the team through the early part of the season, and says that the veteran wide receiver has proven to be a good role model for the team’s younger wide receivers. That doesn’t mean Sawyer is uptight or unapproachable, as the speedy flanker showed in a recent practice before the Texas A&M game.”He has the personality of the receivers,” Baldwin says, laughing. “He is the leader there, but he also has a little bit of a prankster in him where he can joke with them and keep them loose. He’s not an uptight guy, he’s got a little prankster in him. He made the receivers write nicknames on their bottles, since we’re hydrating for Texas A&M. So he is ‘Big Daddy’ and he has a lot of confidence.”Sawyer doesn’t take all the credit for helping Utah State’s young but talented receivers in coming along, and instead points to his fellow upperclassman as playing an essential role in creating the close knit bond that binds the team’s receivers together.”This is my fifth year here so I guess the younger guys look up to me and some of our other seniors like Nnamdi [Gwacham], Chase [Griffiths] and Xavier [Bowman], just because we’re the older guys. We try to keep it real fun and bring the younger guys up into a good environment instead of having them come in like maybe how we came in – where there weren’t really the older guys helping us out or hanging out with us. We just try to make it a really cool environment so everybody feels comfortable.”As for his expectations for the 2009 season, Sawyer remains the consummate team-player, embracing his role as one of the team’s senior leaders, while also volunteering to contribute in any form possible.”I’m just looking to do whatever I can for us to win,” Sawyer says. “Whether it’s me taking less reps or me taking more reps or getting more catches or whatnot, I’m just going to play my role as a player and a teammate and try to help us win.”Sawyer has accomplished a lot during his time at Utah State, but says that his career in Logan would not be complete unless he gets to do something his father was never able to do during his time as an Aggie; make it to a postseason bowl game.”My personal goal really ties into the team goal,” says Sawyer. “Everybody is out there and we are trying to make it to a bowl game. Whatever I can do to help us get there, I am going to do that.”Whatever he does to help the team, it is sure to make his father proud and be something that continues to prove that Omar Sawyer is following in his father’s footsteps.Sawyer and the Aggies host in-state foe Southern Utah on Saturday, Sept. 26. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. (MT) at USU’s Romney Stadium. Saturday is not only USU’s home opener but it is USU’s Homecoming as well.All Utah State football games are carried live on KVNU 610 AM and KLZX 95.9 FM in Logan; 1230 AM in Salt Lake City; on KLZX 105.3 FM in Montpelier, Idaho, and on the Internet at www.UtahStateAggies.com by clicking on “Listen Live.” Al Lewis handles the play-by-play duties and Craig Hislop provides analysis.For season and single-game ticket information, contact the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305, or online 24 hours a day at www.UtahStateAggies.com and clicking on the “buy/renew tickets” under the “tickets” drop down menu.-USU-
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