Dick Harmon, Deseret News
BYU's Corbin Kaufusi signs autographs for young fans after practice in St. George on Friday, March 17, 2017.

ST. GEORGE — Corbin Kaufusi switched from basketball back to football on Friday and while he did not participate in the practice in southern Utah, he did re-up with the squad and was seen running around in a football jersey doing wind sprints.

Kaufusi was a reserve center on the Cougar team that ended its season Wednesday in a loss to Texas Arlington in the Marriott Center in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

“This is definitely different,” said Kaufusi. “It’s exciting to get back with the boys and I’m glad they’ll take me as I am.”

Kaufusi started at defensive end last season for BYU.

Kaufusi’s role on the basketball team was not as heavy as a year ago, playing behind All-Conference center Eric Mika. Still, he valued the experience, even if it ended with a disappointing loss.

“The biggest thing is that there is a future for us, for the basketball team. Things did not go as well as we wanted them to but there is a huge future. There is so much potential for that team that I’m excited for the future.”

Kaufusi will always have that moment in Spokane when BYU upset No. 1 Gonzaga — one of the biggest upsets of the college season.

“It was a great upset, now it’s all about getting back into football shape. That is one to remember forever. What I need to do now is meet with some of the coaches and the strength coaches. What basketball has done is keep me focused and involved and now with football, it will keep me focused and on my toes.”

Kaufusi said he was impressed with Friday’s event at Dixie High School, where a crowd estimated at more than 5,000 showed up.

“It is amazing. I didn’t even know we had this many fans down here. It really is amazing and we have fans come out wherever we go but this really does motivate us to play harder because we have so much support in other places.”

BYU ALUMNI: There are almost 6,000 BYU alumni in southern Utah, according to St. George Utah Alumni Chapter president Rex Lewis. “We were so excited to have the football team come down here. It means a lot to fans here. We missed having them at the fanfest last year when other BYU teams came. We just got a list of incoming freshmen (student-athletes) to BYU from southern Utah and it was 93. We feel lucky to have that representation from here.”

NCAA RULES: To stage the practice in St. George, BYU had to follow NCAA rules which stipulate such an event is OK as long as it takes place during “spring break,” which, according to David Almodova, BYU's assistant athletic director for marketing, was Friday. “We have our store here, our concessions. We brought six employees down and could have used a few more to work the cash registers. This event started at 3:30 but we had three soccer families who were in the bleachers at 2 p.m., an hour and a half early. Players and coaches stayed at the Dixie High football field signing autographs until the bus left at 6 p.m., 90 minutes after practice ended.”

FACES IN CROWD: Among those attending the satellite practice were former NFL running back and uncle to graduate assistant coach Harvey Unga, Fine Unga; former BYU defensive coordinator Ken Schmidt, former running back and father of current running back KJ Hall, Kalin Hall; Filipe Nau, grandfather of defensive lineman Kesni Tausinga and the family of linebacker Butch Pau’u and his brother, wide receiver, Neil. The father Uepi Pau’u, said he drove five and half hours from Los Angeles to see the practice and would drive home afterward. “Unless my wife makes me stay overnight to spend time with our boys.” Desert Hills' offensive lineman Penei Sewell, a top 2018 prospect, was also in attendance. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound tackle is ranked the No. 54 prospect in the country by Scout.com (the sixth-best offensive tackle) and has scholarship offers from around the country, including numerous offers from SEC schools.