PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The BYU football team is loaded with talent this year, and most of it is local.
54 of the 97 players on the Cougars roster in 2022 are from Utah, or a whopping 56 percent. These aren’t little-used backups or walk-ons. But rather on the preseason depth chart, 15 starters on the team are from local high schools.
“Honestly, I think it’s something that a lot of us are very prideful about,” said tight end Dallin Holker, product of Lehi High School. “When people talk about high school football, it’s kind of like Texas, California. I think Utah gets left out of it a lot. But I think Utah has a lot of good products that come out of here.”
“I love it,” added linebacker Payton Wilgar, the pride of Dixie High. “If you ask the other guys, I’m always repping St. George. To me, we’ve got the best football in the country. People are going to have their opinions, but I just love to compete and play against the best. So, it’s really fun.”
There is also a little competition between the local players on which region of the state is better.
“Utah county would always win,” said Holker with a laugh. “Especially Lehi.”
Orem High product and BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua left the state originally to attend Washington. But last year, he came back to his home state and now realizes just how much talent there is here.
“It kind of took me a minute,” Nacua said. “People obviously knew I was coming back to the state of Utah. But it didn’t me until the end of the season that I was going back. People who have grown up in Utah and are fans of BYU but move across the country. If we go play in Georgia, they’re like it’s so cool that you went back to Utah. We wish we could go back. I just think about how much of a blessing that it was that I was able to come back.”
For a high-profile guy like quarterback Jaren Hall, proud alum of Maple Mountain High, he loves being able to play in front of his family and friends.
“For me, it’s just the people that I get to meet,” Hall said “I’m from here, so I love the people naturally. I love the Cougar Nation, the fans. They’re my people. I hope I’m their people. It’s just who I grew up with, so I love it.”