SALT LAKE CITY — Utah will be missing more than quarterback Jordan Wynn and left tackle John Cullen in MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. The Utes will also be without assistant head coach John Pease, who oversaw the defensive line the past two years.
Pease, 67, opted to retire days after Utah's 17-16 win over BYU.
"He thought the time was right and we appreciate everything he gave to the program for the past two years," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "He's a heckuva football coach and a great person. He just felt it was time."
And when someone with Pease's experience makes such a decision, Whittingham added, you don't argue with it.
"You just wish him well," he said. "We're grateful for the time we had with him."
In announcing his retirement, Pease noted that he's coached in 646 games since 1966 and "I'm ready to watch from the sidelines." Pease spent nearly two decades in the National Football League with Jacksonville and New Orleans before retiring for the first time in 2005. He later accepted an offer from Whittingham to join the staff at Utah, his alma mater.
"This is a young man's game and this is a great young coaching staff that does things the right way," Pease said. "I wouldn't have returned to coaching if it weren't for this university, this coaching staff and Kyle Whittingham."
Pease is now "officially retired," meaning he won't be on the sidelines when the Utes face Boise State on Dec. 22.
Defensive end Christian Cox acknowledged it's weird not seeing Pease out on the practice field
"It definitely caught me off-guard. I love that man. He was the reason I was able to play football up here," said Cox. "He's been here two years and I've loved every minute of being under his wing. The guy has so much knowledge."
Teammate Sealver Siliga, a tackle, has similar feelings about Pease.
"I miss him a ton. He's helped my game tremendously. From the first year he's coached me to the person I am today; it's a whole different athlete I'm playing like," Siliga said. "It was great just knowing somebody so wealthy in knowledge. ... He's a man that I put 100 percent trust in."
Although both players are saddened by Pease's departure, they're understanding about it.
"I'm just glad that he gave two years of his coaching so I could get better as a player. Somebody like that, you never want to see him go, but when it's time, it's time," Siliga said. "It was just great seeing him and being part of what he was coaching. It's going to be 10-times weird not getting to see him, not seeing his energy in practice and not seeing his energy in the game."
It's going to be different," he continued.
"He taught me how to sack a quarterback and so I'm going to miss him," Cox said. "This game will be dedicated to him. So we're all excited to play for him."
Whittingham noted that Pease is still good friends with everyone and is still around, just a phone call away.
"John Pease is a guy that is so passionate. When he does something he does it all the way. He dives. He's all in," Whittingham said. "Our players recognize that. They understand that they were very fortunate to have him for the past couple of years. He is absolutely a part of us."
A real big part, according to the players.
"I'm still going to give him phone calls before our football games. I'm going to give him phone calls once in a while to see how he's doing, to see if he could throw me some tips and stuff," Siliga said. "So he'll still be with me. He'll be my advisor from here on out. He'll be the man I go through."
The line of communication will remain open.
"We'll all stay in contact, for sure," Cox said. "Maybe he and I will go golfing in the spring."
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
No. 20 Utah (10-2) vs. No. 10 Boise State (11-1)
Dec. 22, 6 p.m.
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas
Radio: 700 AM
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