PROVO — Running back Harvey Unga, who is 21 yards away from breaking the BYU all-time rushing record, practiced Thursday, but whether or not he will play Saturday against Air Force will be a game-time decision.
Unga is nursing a sprained ankle and wore a protective boot this week. He was held out of practice until Thursday. As per coach Bronco Mendenhall's policy, injured players must practice on Thursday to be able to play on Saturday.
BYU football spokesman Brett Pyne said Unga did participate in practice Thursday, a session that was closed to reporters.
When Unga talked to the media after Wednesday's practice, Unga called his ailing ankle "one of those little nagging injuries. It's not anything too crazy to deal with. It is one of those that's annoying and you have to fight through it. I don't believe it's going to keep me from doing anything on Saturday."
Unga is poised to eclipse Curtis Brown and become the school's all-time leading rusher. Unga has 3,201 yards in his career while Brown (2002, 2004-06) rushed for 3,221 yards.
The record is something special, Unga said.
"It's definitely an honor to think of all the running backs I've grown up watching. It's kind of surreal to think that I have as many yards as whoever... I'm excited for it, hopefully it happens. I'm looking forward to the game this weekend."
Unga said Brown talks to him quite frequently to talk about the record.
"He'll text me or give me a call. I don't bother him as he bothers me, let's put it that way. He likes to give me a hard time. He asks me to sit out another game or hang out on the sidelines a little more or let J.J. (DiLuigi) or Bryan (Kariya) take more of the load. He'll joke about that stuff. One of the humbling experiences I had was one time he texted me and said, 'If anyone should break the record, it's you.' For me, it was a humbling experience. This was a guy who did something that I watched him do. To hear him say something like that was like, wow. The respect he has for me is tremendous."
Unga was a redshirt freshman when Brown set the record in 2006, surpassing the mark previously held by Jamal Willis (1991-1994).22 comments on this story
"I talked to (Brown) about it after he broke (the record)," Unga said. "I said, 'What do you think if I break that record?' He started laughing at me. He was like, 'If you break the record, my hat's off to you. But I just hope you don't break it within three years or something short because I want to hold on to it.'
"It's kind of crazy to think that it's coming up. He's always been there for me and helped me through thick and thin — while he was here and even when he was gone," Unga continued. "He'd still come back to help me out, watching film and talking with me. He'll tell me of some tendencies that he was while he was playing of certain teams and give me a heads-up on certain stuff. I admire that about him and appreciate him for that. Hopefully I can do that for another young running back coming up."
Also, Unga needs only four carries to break the BYU record for most rushing attempts. He has 638 carries in his career.