SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Who knew Sione Vaki, one of the better safeties in the Pac-12, could be this good on offense? Not his teammates.
“I didn’t,” said running back Ja’Quinden Jackson. “I just knew he was big, strong, fast, and would come down and hit you. That’s all I knew.
“I had no idea that man could play like that,” said offensive lineman Keaton Bills. “And all of a sudden, that man comes out and balls out every single time he touches the ball. So, keep giving him the ball. I don’t mind that.”
In the two games playing both ways against Cal and USC, as a safety and running back, Vaki has 370 total yards and four touchdowns. As a slot receiver in high school, Vaki has played on offense before, but this is different.
“During the summer, he would be working DB drills,” said quarterback Bryson Barnes. “We asked him, ‘hey, come run some routes. We heard what you did in high school,’ and the dude was electric. We said we’ve got to get you to the offensive side of the ball.”
“Just here to help the team,” Vaki said. That’s pretty much it. I do like defense, I love defense. But I love offense as well.”
So how does he have the energy to play both ways? It all comes down to his conditioning.
“I would say my training,” Vaki said. “The coaches believed I could do that, and it’s a big trust issue. So, I’m thankful for the coaches in high school to believe in me, and thankful for the coaches in college to believe in me to do the same thing.”
“The impact he’s made on offense is actually probably bigger than the impact he’s made on defense,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “And he’s one of the best safeties in the country, so that tells you how valuable he’s been on offense.”
As much attention as he’s getting, Vaki isn’t letting all the praise get to him.
“No, not really,” Vaki said. “I try to stay away from all the hype and things like that. I just keep my head down and keep working.”
Vaki and #13 Utah will host #8 Oregon Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.