EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — For many BYU players, it’s about earning a seat on the plane.
Out of the 105 players that participated in fall camp, the Cougar coaching staff brought 70 players here for the season-opener against Connecticut Friday. One of those 70 players is junior walk-on Nate Carter, a backup running back. Making the travel squad is a big deal, he said.
“That’s your goal. You never want to sit home,” said Carter, who prepped at Dixie High. “I traveled to quite a few of the games last year. Some I did, some I didn’t. That is my goal, to travel to games. Not just to get a seat on the plane, but to contribute.”
Carter said the thought of having to stay home and watch the game on television is “kind of a motivator to work harder. Especially for me, where I feel like hard work is in direct correlation with my ability to play and my playing time. It’s definitely more fun to go than sit home.”
Carter’s biggest impact Friday could be on special teams. He blocked a couple of punts during fall camp scrimmages.
“The coaches have lately used a phrase all the time, ‘The more you can do, the more you can do.’ For me, one of the best ways to get on the field is through special teams,” Carter said. “If my role is on special teams, that’s fine with me. I just want to get on the field and contribute the best that I can. Kickoff, kickoff return, blocking punts, whatever I can do.”
While playing college football isn’t always as glamorous as it seems, Carter said road trips are special.
“You go to a place and there’s a police escort for you,” he said. “You have a charter plane and charter buses. It’s pretty cool. It’s fun to be a part of that.”
The Cougars arrived in East Hartford Wednesday, two days before game day, in order to give themselves time to get acclimated to their surroundings.
On Thursday, the team visited Rentschler Field and did a walk-through and was scheduled to hold its traditional pre-game fireside in Hartford Thursday night.
Linebacker Alani Fua said arriving on the East Coast a day early should be a positive for BYU.
“Usually when you travel the day before you can get exhausted and the time will mess with you,” he said. “Having that extra day to get acclimated, sleep in and relax for a whole day before will definitely help out.”
BIG OPPORTUNITY FOR UCONN: The Huskies see BYU coming to town as a chance to make a statement.
"A big-time team like BYU coming into the Rent, Friday night, ESPN, there's no bigger stage," tight end Sean McQuillan told the Hartford Courant. "I think that's exactly what this team needs. It needs to be under that kind of pressure, and I think we're going to elevate our play for that."
What does first-year coach Bob Diaco want to see out of his team Friday?
"I want to see a team that is focused and resolute. I want to see an aggressive, intense, tough team that gives great effort,” he said. “I don't want to see a rigid, stuffy, decelerating group. I want to see animation. I want to hear animation. ... I'll be disappointed if I don't see that."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company