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Utah Utes football: More mature DeVonte Christopher leads by example

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 9:50 p.m. MDT

Utah's Devonte Christopher makes a catch on the opening day of the University of Utah football camp Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.   (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah's Devonte Christopher makes a catch on the opening day of the University of Utah football camp Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah wide receiver DeVonte Christopher has come of age. At the ripe old age of 22, the fifth-year senior is approaching his final college season with a heightened sense of maturity.

"I'm kind of mad that it's taken me this long to figure things out. But it's definitely a business mindset every day I come out here," Christopher said. "I definitely try to think about in that aspect and take that approach. So when I'm out there it's strictly doing what the coaches say."

Despite leading the Utes in receiving yards and touchdown receptions over the past two seasons, Christopher expects more out of himself and is determined to be better than ever.

Statistics, he noted, isn't the measuring stick.

"I had a lot of maturing to do since I came here. I came here at 17 years old. So I've definitely matured a lot," said Christopher, who has earned his bachelor's degree in communication. "I definitely look at the big picture now. When you look at things in that nature, things start to simplify."

Devonte Christopher, University of Utah football,  Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009,in Salt Lake City Utah.   Photo by Tom Smart/University of Utah Sports Information  (Tom Smart, University of Utah Athletics) Devonte Christopher, University of Utah football, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009,in Salt Lake City Utah. Photo by Tom Smart/University of Utah Sports Information (Tom Smart, University of Utah Athletics)

Christopher acknowledges that he's probably being hard on himself. However, his role as a veteran on the team has given him cause for reflection. Younger players regularly seek Christopher's advice and insight.

"He is most definitely one of the leaders. When things are going wrong he's one of the people getting us going. He's always helped me when I had things going bad," said sophomore receiver Dres Anderson. "He leads by example as well. He makes plays and everybody feeds off of that."

It's a role Christopher has embraced throughout his career. It's been his form of leadership. Anderson noted that Christopher isn't as outspoken as others assigned to positions as team leaders.

"I've never had that type of leader mentality," Christopher said. "I just felt like I was a soldier out there. I just did what I needed to do and what I could do to help the team win."

Selfishness was never Christopher's intent. The coaching staff, however, is seeking more outward leadership from him.

While noting that Christopher has become a more mature player each year, receivers coach Aaron Roderick has challenged him to play with a lot of poise this season.

"He's a guy who plays with great emotion and he wears his emotion on his sleeves," Roderick said. "Most of the time that's a good thing. But we're trying to get him to be a leader and just doing everything like a professional."

The approach is already paying dividends.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has noticed a more focused player on the field. So much so, in fact, that he said Christopher is having his best camp as a Ute.

"We want to get the ball in his hands as much as we can," Whittingham explained. "He's had a very good fall camp. He's competitive. He comes out to practice every day and works."

Christopher is determined to close out his Utah career without any regrets. He's far from satisfied — acknowledging there's still a lot of work to do — as the Utes prepare to kick off the 2012 season next Thursday against Northern Colorado.

"Personally I want all the accolades. I want the Pac-12 championship," Christopher said. "I want all that for my team."

Roderick constantly reminds the receivers that it all begins with victories. With that in mind, Christopher vows to continue giving it his all and keep on making plays.

"He makes plays in the big moments. He's a guy who has historically stepped up when we need a big play," Roderick said. "He's a guy that will step up and make it. He's not afraid of the pressure situation and we're looking for more of that this year."

Christopher came up big in Utah's Sun Bowl victory over Georgia Tech. He caught a 28-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-18 with 1:32 to play in regulation to eventually force overtime.

Earlier in the game, Christopher netted 97 yards on two kickoff returns and was named Sun Bowl Special Teams MVP.

The 2007 Nevada high school player of the year has five 100-yard receiving games with the Utes. The two most recent ones came last season against USC (136) and Washington (125).

The numbers, however, are secondary to what Christopher hopes will be his legacy at Utah. He wants to be the guy that Roderick talks about in the team meeting room, a player who didn't come in with the best attitude and maturity but showed significant progression by the time he graduated.

"People relate to people who struggle and overcome things," Christopher said.

Now, five years after his arrival at Utah, Christopher is eager to end things on a high note and hopefully move on to a career in the NFL.

"It's just that time where it finally has to click," Christopher said. "This is definitely priority No. 1. This is what I love to do and I just want to be the best at it while I'm here."

Christopher came to Utah as a highly touted quarterback before switching positions. His background and understanding of defensive coverages has helped him form a special bond with starter Jordan Wynn.

"It's nice because we can almost read each other's minds. We read each other's mind at the line. He sees what I see. I see what he sees," Wynn said. "(If) he's going to change his route I'm going to throw it to where he's changing. It just clicks."

Wynn's shoulder injury curtailed the connection midway through the fourth game of 2011. At the time, Wynn and Christopher had teamed up on 19 completions for 258 yards and two touchdowns. The season totals reflect 35.4 percent of Wynn's passing yards, 33.3 percent of his scoring strikes and 28.7 percent of his connections.

"Hopefully this is the year where we kind of put it all together," Wynn said.

DeVonte Christopher file

Wide receiver

6-1, 200, Senior

Led the Utes in receiving yards and touchdown receptions the past two seasons.

Has 83 career catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns over 35 games (17 starts) at Utah.

Sun Bowl Special Teams MVP.

Graduated in May.

Email: dirk@desnews.com, Twitter: @DirkFacer

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