SALT LAKE CITY — Quality not quantity. That’s how Utah coach Kyle Whittingham describes the seniors on this year’s team.
“There is only 12 of them — so it is a small class — but they are powerful,” he said. “Those guys make their presence known. They've done a great job since January when the offseason program started. They have taken charge.”
At the end of camp, five were elected to be team captains — linebacker Cody Barton, center Lo Falemaka, kicker Matt Gay, linebacker Chase Hansen and punter Mitch Wishnowsky. They are joined on the 15-player leadership council by two other seniors — offensive lineman Jackson Barton and wide receiver Jameson Field.
“Every one of those guys is doing their part and contributing,” said Whittingham, who added that he couldn’t be more pleased.
The leadership group includes junior quarterback Tyler Huntley. The team captain is also part of the council, as are juniors Bradlee Anae, Julian Blackmon, Terrell Burgess, Leki Fotu and Demari Simpkins. Sophomore Britain Covey and freshman Jack Tuttle represent the underclassmen.
"They’ve just done an outstanding job of being leaders and showing up every day and demanding a certain level of performance and holding players accountable,” he said. “So I think the team did a great job selecting the captains as well as the leadership council."
Whittingham noted the importance of having players step forward.
“It’s a huge deal,” he said. “Poor football teams have no leadership, average teams the coaches lead and great teams the players lead. That’s how it is.”
This year’s captains are taking it to heart.
“It means a lot that my team trusts me to do the right thing and my coaches trust me to do the right thing,” Huntley said. “I’m going to do the right thing, so I take honor and pride in it.”
Similar thoughts were shared by the others. Wishnowsky said it was awesome to be voted in by the team and added that “it’s just a great honor.” Barton also expressed gratitude.
“It just shows that a lot of hard work that I’ve done has paid off and it shows that I’m respected by a lot of guys on the team, he said. “It’s just another step along the way and I’m very, very grateful.”
Gay, who has only been with the team for one season, admits that it’s been “touching” to come in and be so readily accepted by his teammates. The reigning Lou Groza Award winner called it an honor to be elected a captain.
“They trust me and I trust them as well,” Gay said. “So it’s just a mutual respect.”
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Hansen. He’s been in the program for quite some time, beginning with a redshirt year in 2012.
“I’ve been here for a bit so I feel like I know all the guys that have come through here past and present. I’ve always looked up to guys I saw as captains,” Hansen said. “I think what it means now is just that hopefully guys respect what I’ve done and the kind of work that I’ve put in. I don’t know. We’ve got a lot of leaders out there. It’s just a role that I’m ready to take on this year.”
Hansen isn’t alone in that regard. Another veteran, Falemaka, is also a big believer in leading by example and that’s not about to change — for any of the captains.
“I’m going to do what a leader does and I’m just going to continue to lead the younger guys to eventually become like me,” Falemaka said. “The group of leaders that we have, I don’t think I would have chosen anyone else. I think this is the perfect set to lead the rest of the team. As long as we keep doing what we’re held up to do, everyone else will follow.”
Utah’s united front is solidified by an abundance of leadership.
“I think we have a good team. Everybody’s sort of in it for the same reason and all that sort of stuff,” Wishnowsky said. “I don’t think we have to keep anybody in line or anything like that. It’s just lead by example and stuff like that.”
Hansen agrees.1 comment on this story
“We’ve got a lot of leaders,” he said. “It seems everybody out there is a leader. It’s fun to be part of a team that has so many guys with the same vision and the same goal. I’m just honored to be one of the guys that’s kind of at the head of that.”
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2018 Utah football elected leaders
CAPTAINS: Cody Barton, Lo Falemaka, Matt Gay, Chase Hansen, Tyler Huntley, Mitch Wishnowsky.
LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: Bradlee Anae, Cody Barton, Jackson Barton, Julian Blackmon, Terrell Burgess, Britain Covey, Lo Falemaka, Jameson Field, Leki Fotu, Matt Gay, Chase Hansen, Tyler Huntley, Demari Simpkins, Jack Tuttle, Mitch Wishnowsky.