For two and a half seasons, Eddie Wide has been patiently doing his job for the Utah football team, usually out of the spotlight, waiting for his big opportunity.
Besides getting occasional duty as a running back, he's been a regular on all of the Utes' special teams, chasing down runners on kickoffs, or blocking on the punt team.
Suddenly, because of an unfortunate season-ending knee injury to senior captain Matt Asiata, Wide has become the starting running back in the Utes' one-back offense. And he's ready for it.
"You just have to step up," he said. "Everybody wants to be 'the guy."'
As sad as they are for Asiata, whose college career is probably over (he has an outside chance of getting another year from the NCAA), Ute coaches are thrilled Wide is getting his opportunity and say it couldn't happen to a better guy.
"He's a tremendous person, an excellent student, a high character guy, a leader by example," said Utah offensive coordinator Dave Schramm, who coached Wide the past two years as the running backs coach. "He'll do anything he can to help our football team. He's been a special teams player ever since he started playing for us. He's a great football player, very intelligent — I just can't say enough good things about him."
Coach Kyle Whitingham feels the same way.
"Eddie Wide is a great kid, a hard worker and has a great personality," Whittingham said. "We've got a great deal of confidence in him. This is his opportunity to be the primary guy."
With Wide in the lineup, the Ute offense seems likely to take after his name, to spread the field more and go wide. While Asiata was more of a north-south, run-people-over type runner, Wide is faster, more elusive and more apt to go outside. However, the Ute offense won't necessarily change much with Wide in the backfield.
When asked about the Ute offense perhaps going wider with Wide, Schramm said, "The funny thing about that is, he'll do it, but he likes to slam it up in there, too. He's a very physical guy for his body type."
"He's a better inside runner than a lot of people realize," adds Whitingham. "He's not that big, but he's a solid 195 with a lot of quickness and speed. He's not a power back like Asiata, but he brings a different dimension to the offense."
Wide, who put on 15 pounds of muscle in the Utes' offseason weight training program, agrees with his coaches' assessment of his running.
"I bring speed to the backfield," Wide says. "If there is an opening I'll take it, but I have no problem going in between the tackles."
As for his name, Ute fans may notice that Wide's jersey this year reads Wide III. That's because he has the same name — Eddie Lee Wide — as his father and grandfather. Not that anyone would ever mix him up with his father or grandfather, but Wide says he's happy to have the "III" on his jersey.
"I'm glad they put it on there, because that's me," says Wide. "I'm not my grandpa or my dad. I like it."
He's OK being Eddie Wide No. 3 and says the only time it's a problem is when all three are together. "If someone says, 'Eddie,' we all turn and look..."
Wide's grandfather was a boxer and his father played football for Nevada-Reno, as it was called in the 1980s, before becoming a serious body-builder. He's been on the covers of magazines and in 2006 was named Mr. Natural Universe.
In high school, Wide played for Cimarron Memorial High School in Las Vegas, where he rushed for 1,743 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior in 2006.
He received offers from Colorado State, Nevada, UNLV, Washington State and Washington, where, ironically, Utah cornerback coach J.D. Williams recruited him.
As a freshman Wide rushed for just 44 yards and ran for 183 yards on 30 carries last year. This year, he got his first career touchdown against San Jose State on a 15-yard run. After taking over for Asiata against Louisville, Wide racked up 129 yards and has 196 yards for the season.
With Wide now the primary running back, the Utes are looking at three players to back him up. Redshirt freshman Sausan Shakerin is the main backup if he's healthy. He suffered shoulder and wrist injuries in the San Jose State game and is questionable for Saturday's game at Colorado State. The other two are Ray Stowers, a sixth-year senior and Shaky Smithson, who is taking reps at running back after playing receiver.
Perhaps the person most sad about Wide becoming the starter is special teams coach Jay Hill, who calls Wide "one of our best special teams players over the past three years." Actually Hill is thrilled for Wide and believes he'll do great things.
As for Wide taking over as the Utes' main running back, no one is happier than Schramm, who watched Wide play behind Asiata and Darrell Mack the past two years.
"He never complained a lick," Schramm said. "He's he kind of person you want to coach. All he does is what you ask him to do and goes as hard as he can go."
Eddie Wide file
Hometown: Las Vegas
About Eddie: He is an academic all-MWC, who has started on the Utes' special teams for three years. His full name is Eddie Lee Wide III. His grandfather was a boxer and his father is a world-class bodybuilder.
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