Like father, like brother: Fred Whittingham Jr. followed family's footsteps to the University of Utah
“We try to facilitate that kind of a conversation — because if a kid is interested in how many different helmets or how many different jerseys we have, or how many Heisman Trophies we have, or how many national championships, we’re going to lose those sales battles to Oregon and USC and teams like that,” Fred said. “But if we can help facilitate them to become more interested in this kind of more substantial stuff, then I think we stand a much better chance of getting the kind of players that we need.”
As such, Whittingham sees his job as building a brand for the Utah football program — an identity formed by the materials sent to recruits, as well as the team’s social media presence and on-campus experience.
“My vision and my goal is that we become an organization that starts doing things that other teams say, ‘Hey, look what Utah did,’” he said. “And we’ve made some progress.”
When Whittingham arrived on campus, Utah’s football program didn’t have its own Facebook site and the only Twitter page in place was run by the athletic department’s marketing office. The Utes now have a social media strategy when it comes to recruiting.
Kyle praised Fred’s intelligence and added that he’s been a positive addition to the staff. They’ve been around the game virtually their entire lives and big brother was glad his younger sibling had a burning desire to get back into it.
“We’ve been talking about it for a couple of years and he finally decided it was time to pull the trigger,” Kyle said.
Fred is confident his father, who passed away in 2003, would approve.
“I think he’d be happy. I think he’d be happy that his sons were working together and that I was doing my part to help Kyle and try to help the program. It’s something that I think he would think was pretty cool.”
Although Fred would eventually like to pursue a coaching job or possibly a career in NFL player personnel, he definitely sees himself spending the next 15-20 years of his professional life in football.
“I took this position knowing it was a good starting point,” Fred said.
Even so, working at Utah wasn’t exactly where someone so entrenched at BYU earlier in his life expected to be. He feels like he practically grew up there.
“If you would have told me then that I would be up here now wearing red every day and stuff I wouldn’t have believed it,” Fred said. “But, you know, that’s the way life goes and now I don’t think there’s anybody in the family that has any torn allegiance. It’s 100 percent Utah.”
The conversion began when the Whittingham family patriarch was hired by Ron McBride in 1991 after a lengthy stint with the NFL’s Rams.
“Blood is thicker than water,” said Kyle, who joined the Utah staff in 1994. “So we’ve made that transition a long time ago.”
Fred acknowledged that things started to flip and the family got entrenched with the Utes.
“Now it’s funny because my own kids are just red all the way,” he said. “They actually have a disdain for BYU.”
Despite the switch, Fred recollects his time with the Cougars fondly. He remembers the disdain he had for the Utes during his playing days, especially for the “incorrigible” fans who cheered wildly when defensive back Eric Jacobsen knocked out quarterback Sean Covey in Utah’s 57-28 upset of BYU in Salt Lake City. The next year, Whittingham scored three touchdowns in the first half of the Cougars’ 70-31 win in Provo. He begged to go back into the game, but Edwards opted to go with reserves the rest of the way after BYU racked up 49 points by halftime.
That was then, however, and this is now.
“You never know what direction things are going to go and as it’s turned out we’re elated to be here,” Kyle said.
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