Mar 13, 2018 04:44PM
● By Jet Burnham
From left to right: Ralph Zobell, BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake, Jim Jaramillo, Paul Tidwell (Jim Jaramillo)
BYU football player Jim Jaramillo received his traditional Senior Blanket 37 years after his final game.
“It was something always in the back of my mind that I never got it,” said Jaramillo, who played football for BYU from 1976 to 1980 and now teaches at West Jordan High School. It is a tradition at BYU for coaches to present their senior players with a personalized blanket at their final game.
“When it came the final home game where they presented the blankets, I didn’t attend that home game,” said Jaramillo, whose injuries prevented him from finishing out his senior season.
When long-time friend Ralph Zobell realized the omission, he quietly arranged for Jaramillo to receive the belated blanket. Zobell, who works in the athletic communications department at the university, knew how much the tradition means to players and coaches.
“I don’t know what happened to his senior blanket and didn’t ask if it was still around,” said Zobell. “I just thought, ‘I can do something about this.’”
Zobell contacted the company that makes the blankets and arranged to purchase the memoir himself. He decided it would be even more meaningful if a football coach made the presentation. Zobell coordinated with BYU football coach Kalani Sitake’s schedule and invited Jaramillo down to BYU, on the premise of giving him a tour of the updated athletic facilities.
“I didn’t tell him what I was doing,” said Zobell.
Jaramillo said he was very surprised when Sitake stepped out of a meeting to talk with him. Jaramillo explained what happened next.
“He said ‘I heard there’s something after your career at BYU that you didn’t receive. Come on into my office; I’ve got something for you,” he said.
Sitake presented the dark blue blanket with Jaramillo’s name and the years he had played embroidered on it.
“He said, ‘We’d like to make you whole as one of our players—we like to take care of our people. I’d like to present you with your senior blanket,’” Jaramillo recounted. Sitake said he wanted to thank him for what he had done for the school as a player.
Jaramillo said he was shocked and touched by the impromptu ceremony.
“It turned out to be a nice little surprise,” Jaramillo said.
He was especially surprised that the coach made time for him. The day of the presentation was also the first day players would be signing their letters of intent to play. The whole department was busy keeping track of what players were signing.
“It turned out to be coach Sitake’s busiest day that we could have picked,” said Zobell. “But coach Sitake found time in his schedule to officially present the blanket.” Zobell said the coach said this kind of omission should never have happened and the coaching staff feels strongly that players should be remembered.
Jaramillo felt appreciated. “For him to take that time out, especially that day—I thought it was pretty special of him to do that,” he said. “He’s a super guy for doing that.”
He also appreciates the effort his friend made to get him the belated memoir. Zobell and Jaramillo arrived at BYU at the same time in 1976— Jaramillo as a football player and Zobell as an intern for the Sports Information Department. Later, they became neighbors, and Zobell visited Jaramillo’s home as part of an assignment in their church. Zobell said he felt it was important to arrange this for his friend.
“I just feel good about Jim getting a blanket,” said Zobell.
Even without the blanket, Jaramillo remembers his time on the BYU team.
“My favorite memories are the friendships I made—and the travel,” he said.
Jaramillo values lessons learned through sports. He previously coached track and football at West Jordan High where he now teaches history and coaches the girls soccer team.
“College football taught me how to get along with people, deal with adversity and compete at a relatively high level in my sport,” he said.