SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utes football team started the season with two of the best tight ends in the country in Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid.

But because of injuries to both players, unheralded junior Thomas Yassmin has been thrust into the limelight, and he has come through.

Growing up in Australia, Thomas Yassmin learned about American football through the Madden NFL video game.

“I didn’t know too much” Yassmin admits. “Probably my first introduction was playing Madden ’11 and Madden ’12 a couple times. But I couldn’t tell you anything more than that. That was really my first and only introduction. I was horrible. I got destroyed every single time.”

Now, Yassmin is destroying defenses. A former rugby player, Yassmin loves the physicality of the game.

“I think running with the ball in my hands has been my biggest edge and what I feel most comfortable with,” he said. “The coaches put me in good position for that. But other than once the ball was in my hands, it was all brand new concepts.”

While he’s thankful for the helmets and pads, Yassmin lets his teammates know that in rugby, they don’t have that luxury.

“They always ask me what it’s like playing without pads,” he said. “They watch the highlights of rugby’s biggest hits. I’m not going to lie, taking a hit in football doesn’t hurt as much.

Coming into the season, Yassmin primarily played on special teams and has one career catch. This season, Yassmin has eight catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns, including one against Arizona last week.

He says he is lucky to have guys like Kuithe and Kincaid to learn from.

“They’ve been unreal,” Yassmin said. “When Brant went down, he would call me the day before games or send me a text message. Now with Dalton, same thing. They’ve been unreal role models. To be behind arguably two of the best tight ends in all of college football, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Yassmin says his family often wakes up early in Australia to watch him play. But this past weekend, his brother flew to Utah and surprised him before the Arizona game, and Yassmin made it worth the trip by scoring a touchdown.

“I had no idea until the day before,” he said. “Cam (Rising), Brant and Dalton surprised me with it. That was probably one of the coolest experiences to score a touchdown. He hadn’t seen me play sports since high school.”

The only thing Yassmin enjoys more than playing football, is listening to his teammates try to do an Australian accent. Yassmin says linebacker Mo Diabate is the worst.

“It’s pretty funny,” Yassmin said. “He just sounds like an Englishman. Anyone who tries to do an Aussie accent ends up doing an English accent. So, it’s pretty funny.”

Yassmin and the Utes take on Stanford Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium at 8:00 p.m.