Utah's John Frank sacks SanDiego's Jack Hawley. Allred/photo

SAN DIEGO — It's not the stadium where John Frank aspired to play, nor is it the stadium where he made his mark on college football.

But the former Utah defensive end feels oddly “at home” in San Diego County Credit Union Stadium not because of the times he played or coached in the stadium, but because of who watched from the stands reveling in his every success — his father.

"It brings back a lot of memories for sure," Frank said. "I loved playing here. I wish my dad was here with me. He loved to follow us around. ...I love it down here."

Frank’s introduction to Ute fandom was quick and complete.

His father, Alan Frank, began bringing him to games when he was in diapers in the 1970s.

“I don’t remember ever missing any home games,” Frank said. “The stadium, team culture and everything was quite different then.”

What wasn’t different was the Frank family’s commitment to following Utah wherever and whenever they played, but especially after Frank began playing for them in 1996. Frank grew up listening to his father rattle of the history and connections of players past and present.

In 2009, the Frank family made the trip to San Diego to watch Utah play in what was then called the “Poinsettia Bowl” when John was coaching at Utah. That would be their last time as a family enjoying Utah in what’s now known as SDCCU Stadium. On May 5, 2011, Alan Frank passed away after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

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So when Utah earned the opportunity to play Northwestern in Monday’s Holiday Bowl, John Frank decided to bring his own children, who watched him coach in 2009, into a special communion with their grandfather.

“Now they will get the chance to return to the same stadium,” he said.

Only this time, their father was sitting alongside them, the memory of their grandfather’s passion heavy.

Frank was sure of one thing, as he and his family huddled together in the on-again-off-again rain.

“Dad will be watching from his own stands as his Utes, son and (grandchildren) carry on the long tradition of supporting Utah football.”