SALT LAKE CITY — Christian Cox is a hard-hitting success story.
The Utah defensive end has come full circle in his college football career. He's gone from walk-on to team captain to first-team all-conference in his four years up on the hill.
Teammate Sealver Siliga, who is also a captain on this year's MAACO Bowl Las Vegas-bound squad, said Cox's story is better than that of Rudy Ruettiger of Notre Dame fame.
"He never quit. He always gave it his all. Every time he was asked to do something, he gave it his all — 100 percent," Siliga said. "I'm proud for all the achievements he's had. I'm just proud of him that he didn't quit. He just kept coming and coming."
Cox's perseverance paid off. His journey to Mountain West Conference accolades was non-traditional to say the least.
After earning all-state honors as a senior at Bountiful High in 2003, Cox enrolled at Southern Utah and played in seven games the following season — making eight tackles. He then served an LDS Church mission in Brazil.
Upon his return, Cox opted to walk-on at Utah. He was a redshirt in 2007 and appeared in four games as a sophomore in 2008.
Cox made a major impact the next year. He led the Utes in sacks with 5.5, playing in all 13 games and starting the last three in place of the injured Derrick Shelby.
As a senior, Cox maintained his position and tallied a career-high 50 tackles, including 7.5 behind the line of scrimmage and four sacks. He tied for team-high honors with two fumble recoveries.
Despite the success, Cox acknowledged that he was "definitely surprised" when he learned about his first-team status on the all-conference team.
Cox credits head coach Kyle Whittingham and defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake, as well as former assistants Gary Andersen and John Pease, for believing in him and giving him a shot as a walk-on.
Cox admits there were a lot of years of hard worked involved.
"But I'm just really grateful," he said. "It's a great honor to end my senior year that way."
Cox was Utah's only first-team honoree on defense. His inclusion extended the Utes' streak of having a defensive lineman on the squad to 10 consecutive seasons.
But, Whittingham explained, Cox's rise to prominence is much more than that.
"What a success story. He's earned everything he's gotten. Nothing has been handed to him," Whittingham said. "Through sheer hard work and determination, he has gone full circle from the starting point of a walk-on to working himself into a scholarship to having enough respect from his peers to be voted team captain and (now) first-team all-conference."
Cox and 17 other seniors will conclude their Utah careers against Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Dec. 22.
EXTRA POINTS: The Utes practiced with just three full-time coaches Wednesday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Whittingham, Sitake and co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick oversaw practice while the other coaches were out recruiting. The full staff will be back Friday when bowl practices amp up. ... Quarterback Terrance Cain, who will start in place of the injured Jordan Wynn in Vegas, said he's preparing like he always does and things are going well. ... Whittingham was impressed with the dunk that safety Justin Taplin-Ross made at halftime of the Utah men's basketball game on Tuesday night. "He's a showman. He's an entertainer and he loves to play to the crowd," Whittingham said. "That was a pretty impressive move on his part."
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
No. 19 Utah (10-2) vs.3 comments on this story
No. 10 Boise State (11-1)
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas
Wednesday, Dec. 22, 6 p.m. (MT)
TV: ESPN Radio: 700 AM