Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Ute football team captains Sealver Siliga, left, Zane Taylor, Matt Asiata and Christian Cox pose after practice.

SALT LAKE CITY — At 6-foot-2 and 309 pounds, Utah center Zane Taylor is a big, big man. The strongest player on the team, he can squat 565 pounds, bench 440 and do a team-high 41 reps at 225 pounds.

Got muscles? He does.

Taylor also has his share of titles. In high school, he was a three-time state wrestling champion. As a senior, Taylor was elected class president, led Grand to the 2A football crown and added state shot-put and discus championships to his résumé.

At Utah, Taylor was a major contributor on the undefeated Sugar Bowl team and has earned All-Mountain West Conference recognition twice.

Academic awards have also been plentiful throughout his football career.

A more recent accolade, however, may be even more meaningful to the 22-year-old. Taylor, running back Matt Asiata, defensive end Christian Cox and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga were chosen to serve as Utah's co-captains this season.

"I've been a part of this program for starting five years now, and I've been a Ute fan my whole life, and this is like an absolute dream come true," Taylor said. "I'm definitely taking this position seriously, and I'm going to be as responsible as I can and represent the team as well as I can. It means a lot to have my peers vote me in, and I'm going to do the best for this team and make sure it was the right decision."

The senior noted he voted for the others who were chosen to be captains.

"I think it was pretty clear cut who the leaders were on this team and who the team wanted to represent everybody," Taylor said. "So I think we've got a great group of captains. We're taking control and leadership and ownership of this team for sure."

Priority No. 1: Setting the tone.

"It's just to keep the team fired up every week and play every game like it's our last. That's the big thing," Taylor said. "We call it 'juice.' We've got juice on the field. We're happy. We're excited. We want to be here. We want to win. That stuff rubs off on everyone else. So it's our job to keep that ownership and make sure that this team goes in the right direction."

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he likes the choices the team made.

"I think we've got a great group of leaders. They're elected by their peers, so that speaks volumes of what their teammates feel about them," he said. "I thought the players did a great job selecting them. They've got guys in place that really have leadership capabilities."

Asiata was chosen to be a captain for the second consecutive year.

"I'm very honored to be a captain again," said Asiata, who noted this year's group has a good bond together. "It's all about the players, and I thank each and every one of them for putting my name down in the vote."

Being a captain, he explained, means setting a good example and working hard.

"It all starts with us," he said. "I'm a quiet guy, but it shows on the field, you know, how important it is to me. ... When I put on my helmet, that's when I start talking with my pads. I'm not a rah-rah guy, but I'll do it with my pads."

While Taylor and Asiata represent the offense, the defensive captains include a former walk-on in Cox and Siliga, who's the only underclassman in the leadership group.

"I was absolutely shocked. Sealver and I looked at each other and just kind of rolled our eyes," Cox said. "We're just real grateful for the opportunity to come out and lead our team. I guess words can't really describe it."

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It's especially meaningful for Cox, who walked on after starting his career at Southern Utah and then serving an LDS Church mission. Hard work paid off, as he eventually became a starter at Utah and now a captain.

"No young man could imagine that," Cox said.

Siliga is also humbled to serve as a team leader.

"It's a big honor. I was shocked when I was chosen to be one of the captains," he said. "I'm happy, and I'm thankful for having this opportunity to be a captain. This captain thing is bigger than I am, so hopefully I represent it good."

Utah season opener

No. 15 Pitt at No. 24 Utah

Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

TV: Versus; Radio: 700AM

Utes' season-opener