PROVO, UT - NOVEMBER 18: Jake Retzlaff #12 of the Brigham Young Cougars throws a pass during warmups before their game against the Oklahoma Sooners at LaVell Edwards Stadium on November 18, 2023 in Provo, Utah.
Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Meet BYU's First Jewish Starting Quarterback

BYU is well known for it's connection with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, But this season, junior Jake Retzlaff became the first Jewish athlete to start at quarterback for the Cougars.

The California native received the opportunity because starter Kedon Slovis suffered injuries to his throwing shoulder earlier in the season. Retzlaff has started the past two games for BYU, throwing for a combined 314 yards, one touchdown and 2 interceptions against Iowa State and West Virginia.

Though it has undoubtedly been an adjustment for Retzlaff at BYU, he has seemed to find solid footing in Provo.

"It's definitely been interesting and it's been an interesting journey to kind of navigate it," Retzlaff said to KSL Sports during spring workouts. "The funny thing about growing up in Southern California where I did, there wasn't a big Jewish community anyways. So throughout sports my entire life, I was always the only Jewish guy on the team. Through team prayers, they're always a little bit different. Here it's a little more for sure. We pray with the team every day so it's different, but it's not anything crazy and it's not anything that I think should scare anybody from BYU. They like to embrace us and it's fun."

Retzlaff's accomplishment is only the latest in a recent line of diversifying moves for BYU. In 2019, Jaren Hall became the first African-American to start at quarterback for the school. In 2016, Kalani Sitake became the first minority head coach for the Cougars. This past offseason, Sitake praised Retzlaff's skills.

"He has a great arm, and he can make some weird throws to get the ball into the receivers hands," Sitake said to ESPN 960. "He has so many different types of throws in his arsenal... and he is really smart when it comes to football"

Sitake has stated recently that the time table for Slovis to return is unknown, but Retzlaff has already made history.

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