SALT LAKE CITY — Led by new coach Andy Reid and new quarterback Alex Smith, the Kansas City Chiefs have been the surprise team in the National Football League this year.
Reid was teammates with Utah coach Kyle Whittingham at BYU in the early 1980s, while Smith played at the University of Utah during Whittingham's tenure as the school's defensive coordinator.
When asked about them at Monday’s press conference, Whittingham said he recommended the Chiefs sign Smith, saying, “I had a conversation about that with Andy and I gave Alex my 100 percent endorsement.’’
Then Whittingham revealed something that won’t make some fans in the state happy.
“He’s a closet Ute. A lot of people don’t know that,’’ Whittingham said. “Andy Reid wears Ute gear constantly — actually he wouldn’t be a closet Ute if he wears Ute gear constantly — but anyway, I’m very proud of (Reid and Smith) and what they’ve accomplished and what they’re doing in Kansas City. I couldn’t be happier for two guys I really care a lot about.’’
Whittingham said the two are similar in that “both are extremely intelligent with no peaks and valleys. He added: “They’re a good match and they’re doing great."
For his part, Reid told KSL.com this past summer that Whittingham "bleeds blue."
"Deep down he really bleeds blue," Reid said of his former teammate. "He just can't say that right now, but he does."’
ORCHARD GETS NATIONAL AWARD: Utah defensive end Nate Orchard was named the national defensive player of the week by Athlon Sports for his performance against Stanford Saturday when he forced two fumbles, registered two sacks and had five tackles. Whittingham called it his “best game as a Ute.’’
“My dad sent me a text and a couple of people told me,’’ Orchard said Monday afternoon. “It’s an honor and privilege to have them notice me (and) what we’re doing as a team and as a defense. It’s nice to have them notice what I’m doing.’’
After Saturday’s game Orchard drew some laughs from the media when asked about his penchant for causing fumbles and said, “It goes to show you how much I miss wide receiver because I want to get the ball back.’’
Orchard repeated Monday that he misses the wide receiver position, where he was a standout for Highland’s state championship team three years ago.
“I definitely miss catching touchdowns and having the stadium go crazy,’’ he said. “I think about it all the time, but at the end of the day, I’m satisfied with where I am and the decision the coaches made to put me on the defensive line.’’
PAC-12 HONORS PHILLIPS: While Orchard didn’t earn defensive player of the week honors in the Pac-12, another Ute, Andy Phillips, earned special teams player of the week honors.
Phillips is the second Ute to be named a Pac-12 player of the week in 2013. Quarterback Travis Wilson earned Pac-12 offensive player of the week honors after the BYU game.
Phillips, a walk-on kicker from Draper, kicked a pair of field goals that proved to be the difference in Saturday's game, a 22-yarder in the third quarter and a 48-yarder — his career long — in the fourth quarter. That made Phillips 11 of 11 for the season. He is also perfect in PATs (27 of 27).
When someone who didn’t know Phillips’ background asked about him Monday, Whittingham recounted the story of Phillips sending a tape and walking on the team after being on the U.S. ski team. Then Whittingham added, “We no longer go to the soccer fields to find a kicker. We go to the slopes.’’
UTE NOTES: This week’s Arizona game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks at 8 p.m. MDT. ... The time for next week’s game against USC has been set at 2 p.m. MDT. ... Utah leads the nation in fewest fumbles lost with one on the season. ... The Utes also lead the Pac-12 in sacks (20) and red zone offense (.909). ... Whittingham called Utah’s kickoff coverage its “Achilles' heel” after it gave up a 100-yard touchdown to Stanford’s Ty Montgomery as well as another long return. ... Wilson has moved up to No. 17 in the nation in total offense at 320.5 yards per game. Wilson is second on the team in rushing behind Bubba Poole with 283 yards.
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