Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Utah equipment manager Kelly Sharitt holds a football with the score from the 2007 Alabama/ULM game.

When Kelly Sharitt became Utah's new athletic equipment manager earlier this year, he brought a wealth of experience to the post.

Sharitt also arrived with a special keepsake, one he proudly displays in his office inside the Smith Center.

It's a staff Christmas gift he received last year from his previous employer — a commemorative football from Louisiana-Monroe football coach Charlie Weatherbie. The ball features the WarHawks' logo and is inscribed with the following:

ULM 21, Alabama 14

Nov. 17, 2007

Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuscaloosa, Ala.

"We went in there in front of 92,000 people and we shocked the world," said Sharitt, who was ULM's equipment manager at the time. "It's a pretty neat little gift and just something to remember it by for a long time."

The keepsake holds special meaning for a guy who was raised in Alabama and sold programs at Crimson Tide games during the Bear Bryant era.

"It's something, hopefully, I'll keep forever," Sharitt said.

"It's definitely one of my most prized possessions — a very special day and something I'll remember for the rest of my life."

Although he was a big Alabama fan while growing up in Birmingham, Sharitt has long-since switched his allegiance. The transformation happened while he was working at UAB, where his boss and a Crimson Tide basketball coach developed a feud.

It soured Sharitt on Alabama, as did the fact that his wife, Leah, was an alum of rival Auburn.

Sharitt's father and brother, however, remain fans of the Crimson Tide. So, too, have a couple of his high school buddies.

On Jan. 2, though, the Sharitt family will unify in Utah crimson at the 75th Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome.

"Blood is thicker than just fandom," Sharitt said. "So they are going to be cheering for us."

And that's a good thing if you're a fan of the Utes. They backed Kelly and Louisiana-Monroe last season in Tuscaloosa.

Another opportunity for a conquest of Alabama has the family "pretty excited." Especially for Kelly and Leah, who wore Louisiana- Monroe gear to last year's Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., where Alabama faced Colorado.

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The coolest thing about that game, he noted, was a billboard that greeted Crimson Tide fans on the drive from Tuscaloosa. The interstate passed by Monroe, where a booster purchased a sign that read: "Tide Rolled," the ULM logo and the score of the WarHawk's victory over Alabama.

Sharitt, who considers himself an Alabaman by proxy since his parents are from the state and they moved back there when he was 6-years-old, is eager for the impending contest in New Orleans.

"Obviously I don't have much to do with the game itself. And once the game starts it's out of my hands," Sharitt said. "But I'll be there cheering and doing my job. Hopefully, we'll all be pulling in the same direction and get it done."

EXTRA POINTS: The Utes will wrap up their Salt Lake City practices today and tomorrow before breaking for Christmas. They'll reconvene Dec. 27 in New Orleans ... The campus bookstore is giving Utah fans who have tickets to the game a 30 percent discount on Sugar Bowl apparel ... The Sugar Bowl is hosting a "Legends Luncheon" in New Orleans on Jan. 2. Head coaches and past MVPs have been invited back as part of the game's 75th anniversary celebration ... Sharitt's career includes a three-year stint with the New York Mets.

E-mail: dirk@desnews.com