They've reached out to me and accepted me 100 percent from the get-go. —Andrew Eide
PROVO — Growing up in Utah County with a father who teaches Economics at BYU, Andrew Eide is more than familiar with the BYU-Utah rivalry.
“One of the biggest memories was, I was a sophomore in high school and I was a pretty hardcore BYU fan at that time,” said Eide, who prepped at Timpanogos High. "I remember watching Jonny Harline catch that touchdown in the end zone against Utah (in 2006, a 33-31 BYU win). I think that's the happiest I've ever been to cheer for BYU."
On Saturday, the Cougar graduate transfer will have his one shot to make his mark in the long-standing rivalry. Last week, Eide made a successful debut as a Cougar, helping BYU run the ball for 213 yards against Arizona in a season-opening 18-16 victory. That included 162 rushing yards from senior running back Jamaal Williams.
The focus for Eide, who started at left tackle against Arizona and is expected to be in the starting lineup again this weekend vs. Utah, is protecting his teammates, like seniors quarterback Taysom Hill and Williams, who are still shooting for a victory over the Utes in their Cougar careers.
“The biggest stressor I had was not only just starting for BYU, but the people that I'm playing for," Eide said of his Cougar debut. "This is a huge year for Taysom and Jamaal. ... O-linemen are protectors. We're playing for the people behind us that are going to be throwing the ball, catching the ball, running the ball.
"That was the main thing I was thinking about against Arizona was, I've got to protect Taysom, I've got to protect Jamaal because I know how much they mean to this team."
And Hill and Williams, both captains on this year's squad, have made the 6-foot-5, 301-pound transfer feel welcome on an offense full of upperclassmen.
"They've reached out to me and accepted me 100 percent from the get-go," Eide said.
Eide grew up a BYU fan but that diminished for a bit when he realized playing there wasn’t going to happen right after high school. Instead, his college career first took him to Southern Utah. Eide played every game for the T-Birds in 2014 and 2015, including 10 starts last year, and he even played defensive line for a time in Cedar City. He earned all-Big Sky honorable mention honors last season.
Now, though, his Cougar fandom has returned as Eide made the decision after the 2015 season to come to BYU as a grad transfer and play one season at a school where both his parents are alums and at a place the offensive linemen said he knew he'd eventually go to for school.
“Never in a million years did I think I would come back here to play football,” Eide said. "I think that fandom came back, and it's added on now that I've learned to love the players here and the coaches and see what everything's about and the way they treat their fans and all the charity work they do here. It's really changed my perspective. I'm full-out BYU now."
He’s not alone in making the leap from Cedar City to Provo this year. Fellow offensive lineman Keyon Norman also transferred and started alongside Eide against Arizona at left guard. The former T-Bird duo joined three BYU linemen — Tejan Koroma, Ului Lapuaho and Parker Dawe — who combined for 24 starts last year.
“It was a confirmation of our abilities," Eide said of the SUU transfers starting last week. "It's always fun to go through that together. We were roommates down there at SUU and we started together last year. When we came up here together, we were both like ... if he can do it, I can do it."
Former Southern Utah head coach Ed Lamb is also on Kalani Sitake’s staff as an assistant head coach who supervises safeties and special teams. Cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford also moved from SUU to BYU this offseason, and new tight ends coach Steve Clark was the T-Birds’ offensive coordinator from 2008-13.
“Anyone who has the opportunity and the blessing to be around coach Lamb knows that they're going to have one of the greatest mentors that I've ever met,” Eide said. "He really cared about the type of person you became rather than the type of football player you became."
Eide said the Cougars' new coaching staff understands what's at stake in the rivalry game this weekend, as Utah looks to extend its winning streak against BYU to six games.
“Historically, they've been here, they've played here,” Eide said. "Utah's not just another game for these guys. It's their biggest rivalry game."
Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @brandonljudd