First-grader Luke Workman has a dilemma to work through this Saturday when BYU travels to Utah for the regular-season football finale. He is concerned and a little worried, more than a kid should ever be over a game he's not playing in.
His two favorite uncles will be knocking heads at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Uncle Chaz Walker is Utah's leading tackler and uncle Bryan Kariya, a BYU running back, has been called the "heart and soul" of the Cougars' offense.
Walker and Kariya are going to clash and collide. They are going to hit one another with or without the ball. They are both key to the success of the Utes and Cougars. Things couldn't be more difficult for Luke, age 6.
"You should be careful when you go face-to-face," he tells uncle Chaz.
"Don't get hurt," he admonishes uncle Bryan.
One thing we do know is Luke's uncles are destined to violently hit one another Saturday. It is their duty.
Sorry, Luke, a lot of force will unavoidably be in the mix.
As one can imagine, things do get complicated in this storied rivalry where the blue and red blood mixes through generations and grips both young and old.
Yet, it is also a very simple storyline: Luke Hardman loves them both.
Luke's mother Randi is Chaz Walker's sister. Luke's father Morgan has a sister named Samantha, who is married to Kariya. Luke loves being around both Kariya and Walker, but probably sees uncle Chaz more frequently.
Chaz and Randi are children of Kevin Walker, a former BYU football player who was a teammate of Kyle Whittingham. They grew up BYU fans all their life — until Chaz became a Ute starter.
"Then, things changed," said Randi.
Chaz and Bryan attended junior high school together and were teammates at Davis High, and both know and respect one another. But Chaz believes little Luke will cheer for the Utes come Saturday.
"After all," he says, "his mom is my sister."
"I'd tell him to cheer for whomever plays the best," said Kariya. "And he should want both of us to do their best."
Walker's 89 tackles this season are by far the most on the Ute team, 23 more than Matt Martinez. It is also more than Mike Wright and Stevenson Silvester (81) in 2008 and 2009 and the most since Steve Tate (103) in 2007. Walker could easily close in on that magic plateau of 100 tackles after the BYU game, including a few of them on Kariya.
Kariya is BYU's second-leading rusher behind JJ Di Luigi, with 117 carries for 500 yards and five touchdowns. But it isn't Kariya's statistics that make him valuable to the Cougars. It's his desire, leadership, drive, attitude and blocking abilities that make him glue for the blue. He has a 3.87 GPA in Chinese and is the only Division I running back to be named an Academic All-American.
Luke will be hard-pressed to watch both at the same time come Saturday, but his mother says he will try his best.
"He supports both of us," said Chaz. "It's really weird how it happened, though. My sister married into the family and Bryan married my brother-in-law's sister. We were both already playing when they got married.
"So, I don't know, it just kind of worked out. He supports both teams."
"I sway him any time I can," Chaz said. "I think I've got him. He's got to root for me because his mom is my sister."
Kariya was a senior at Davis High when Chaz was a sophomore.
"He went to the same junior high as me. I've known him for a little while and we still keep in contact. He's a good guy," said Chaz.
"He's a good running back. He's athletic and he's quick. I've just got to stay sound in my keys and my reads and make plays when he runs through my hole."
Kariya calls Chaz a "great" football player.
"The first time we met each other was in junior high when we were student officers," Kariya said. "We played on the same high school team together. I have a lot of respect for him and for his family, and they are great people.
"I'm interested in (Chaz's) success and hope he does well," Kariya continues. "Hopefully, not quite as well as he's done in the past and we can bust open some runs against him. But he is a great player and I respect him."
As for Luke, Kariya says when he's carrying the ball, he'd suggest Luke cheer for him and, if Chaz is making the tackle, root for the one who is making the plays.1 comment on this story
"I know both of us are going to try as hard as we can and give our best effort," Kariya says. "Hopefully, he can be loyal to both of us, we'll see how it goes. Hopefully, I can talk to him after the game; hopefully, he's wearing blue — we'll see."
It's an interesting perspective to be in Luke's situation, to intimately have so much invested in two players on opposite sides in a game like this.
It's also an opportunity to be thankful, just grateful he is related to two guys who epitomize the backbone of two programs come game day.
Unlike so many fans who will ratchet it up emotionally this weekend, Luke cannot lose.
He has embedded heroes on both sides.