Lifelong Latter-day Saint Sione Po'uha, a retired NFL defensive lineman, was recently hired as the defensive tackles coach at the United States Naval Academy.

SALT LAKE CITY — Sione Po’uha is returning to the University of Utah. The former Ute star, who was a captain on the 2004 Fiesta Bowl championship team before having a lengthy career with the New York Jets, has been hired to coach the defensive tackles. He fills a vacancy on the staff created by Gary Andersen’s departure to become the head coach at Utah State.

"It's great to have Sione back in our program," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in making the announcement. "In his playing days he was an outstanding defensive tackle here at Utah and had a lengthy and successful NFL career as well. We are also excited about the impact he will have on our recruiting."

Po’uha spent the past season coaching the defensive tackles at Navy. Prior to that, the East High product spent two-plus years with the Utes, serving as a student assistant and then as the director of football development. "I am so appreciative of Coach Whittingham for giving me the opportunity to come back and coach at my alma mater," Po'uha said in a released statement. "It was a dream of mine and I am excited about working with the players and coaches here."

Po’uha later told reporters that he’s always had the mantra to be opportunity-ready.

“You never know what opportunity will come your way,” Po’uha said. “But you want to always be ready for the opportunity — 10-11 months ago I didn’t know I was going to be at Navy.”

Coming home, he acknowledged, is “pretty sweet.” Po’uha is a four-time letter-winner at Utah and was a first-team All-Mountain West Conference defensive lineman in 2004. He was drafted in the third round by the Jets and racked up 263 tackles over a pro career from 2005-12.

Po’uha’s path now has him working with former Utah teammate and colleague Lewis Powell. He’ll fill position group duties that Andersen helped oversee. Andersen made quite an impact with the players in his one season back with the line and as the associate head coach.

“Oh, man, all of us love him. We all understand where he’s coming from and we just want the best for what Coach Andersen has,” said defensive end Maxs Tupai. “He’s definitely been a huge part of this defense and this team and we’re going to miss him.”

ALL-AMERICA HONOREES: Utah kicker Matt Gay, linebacker Chase Hansen and Mitch Wishnowsky have been named to multiple All-America teams.

— Gay earned second-team recognition from the FWAA and Pro Football Focus. He made the Associated Press third team.

— Hansen is a second-team selection by both the FWAA and The Athletic.

— Wishnowsky earned second-team honors from the Associated Press and Walter Camp.

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THREE-TIME FINALIST: Whittingham joined Wishnowsky at last week’s College Football Awards Show in Atlanta. Wishnowsky was a Ray Guy Award finalist for the third consecutive year. He won the nation’s top punting award in 2016.

“It was great to be there with Mitch,” Whittingham said. “Congrats to Mitch.”

Whittingham added that having Wishnowsky place in the final three again was awesome.

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2018 Holiday Bowl

No. 17 Utah (9-4) vs. No. 22 Northwestern (8-5)

SDCCU Stadium — San Diego, Calif.

Dec. 31, 5 p.m. (MT)

TV: FS1

Radio: ESPN 700AM