SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The family ties run deep in the Utah-BYU rivalry.
Utes defensive end Devin Kaufusi played two years at BYU, his brothers Corbin and Bronson as well as his cousins Isaiah and Jackson played for the Cougars. His dad Steve played at BYU and coached at Utah, while his Uncle Jeff played for the Utes. So Devin has seen both sides of the rivalry up close.
“You know, I was thinking to myself, 10-year-old me wouldn’t believe where I’m at right now,” said Kaufusi, who grew up a BYU fan. “But a lot of good memories in that [LaVell Edwards] stadium. It’s interesting growing up I’ve been lucky and fortunate to grow up so close to both programs.”
Utes wide receiving Britain Covey grew up a just few minutes from LaVell Edwards Stadium. His uncle, Stephen, played quarterback for BYU, so his family is still split down the middle.
“I see a lot of my family members totally at war with themselves, not knowing what to do,” Covey said. “It’s been fun. I live literally 30 seconds away the stadium. My whole family still has season tickets to BYU they also have season tickets to Utah now, it’s close to home.”
BYU offensive lineman James Empey originally committed to Utah out of high school, before switching to BYU after returning from his mission.
“There’s lots of hype it’s that rivalry game,” Empey said. “A lot of times you’re playing against somebody that you grew up around, a local team that you’ve been around a lot.”
Wide receiver Samson Nacua, who hopes to be healthy enough to play in the rivalry game on Saturday, spent four seasons at Utah before transferring to BYU. He knows how serious both teams take this game.
“It’s going to be intense for sure beccause we know each others tendencies,” Nacua said about facing his former team. “They’ve probably got something hidden under their sleeves, I’ve got something hidden under my sleeve for sure. It’s going to be a dog fight, and I’m more than happy for it it’s going to be some of the best competition I’ve gone up against in awhile.”
Then there are the dozens of in-state kids who grew up watching the rivalry unfold over the years.
“We’ve got the fans going crazy on the internet and social media, so there’s a lot of buildup,” said BYU linebacker Keenan Pili. “Usually that’s what I learned from is that build up excitement.”
“It’s a big game,” added BYU linebacker Payton Wilgar. “It’s a rivalry game, but you can’t get over-hyped and start to do different things. You’ve still got to focus up and just go play your game.”
Having coached at Utah and played for BYU, Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake knows all too well how much the BYU fans desperately want the Cougars to end their 9-game losing streak to the Utes.
“My job as a coach isn’t to tell the fans how to behave or how to act,” Sitake said. “My job as a coach is to be thankful that we have fans that care and are passionate about our team and then try to meet their expectations. That’s what we teach our players. We have fans with high expectations and we want to meet them. We want to make them all happy. There’s a lot of people that cheer for both and there’s a lot of people that have mixed families that go for one or the other school. I think that makes it a lot more fun.”
The fun kicks off at 8:15 p.m. Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.