University of Utah


I bet if you think back REALLY hard, you can remember the very last game you ever played on your home field.  Chances are, that game wasn’t played in front of nearly 46,000 people, but if you were ever an athlete, you can probably remember some very specific things about the last time you ran out onto the field or court or pitch where you made yourself.  Or where you didn’t make yourself.  (Because let’s be honest, most of us didn’t make much of our careers in team sports.)

For Nate Orchard, Saturday’s senior ceremony will be the culmination of a storybook journey in the shadow of the Wasatch.  The kid who grew up down the road, and gradually grew up at the U.  The family story, the national sack leader.  Standing ovations, flower leis, teary-eyed fans.  Can’t wait to see it.

For Dres Anderson, a similar story, with a more bittersweet close.  The same for Junior Salt.

Eric Rowe and Brian Blechen will be recognized and thanked for careers that, despite maybe not living up to the early hype, were still undoubtedly successful.  Quality players that were both products and victims of the increased expectations that came along with joining the Pac-12.

Everybody will stand and cheer for Davion Orphey, Westlee Tonga, Jacoby Hale, Wykie Freeman, Sese Ianu, and Marc Pouvave.  You’ve heard their names before, and seen them make contributions on the field for the Utes.  If not this year, certainly in past seasons.

I myself will also closely observe the guys like Chandler Johnson, who’s been a special-teams guy his whole career.  By itself, that’s an admirable enough accomplishment.  It’s not easy to see the field in a D-1 football program.  But when you consider the fact that his father is the all-time rushing leader in Utes record books, you realize that he probably expected and hoped for more.  Andre Lewis came to Utah out of a quality JC program in the Bay Area, undoubtedly hoping to be a star.  Reality and expectation rarely meet up though…

When Ryan Petersen walks out on Senior Day, The Muss will go nuts because he is one of them.  He was invited to walk-on to Kyle Whittingham’s team after back-to-back years as the Muss flag football game MVP; the ultimate fan experience made real.  He might not have played more than a handful of downs for the actual Utah football team, but there is honor in the pursuit of a dream.

Not all football careers are created equal, as the disparity in fan-reaction and name recognition will prove on Saturday.  But what matters on a deeper level in college football is the things that ALL of these guys will miss as their senior seasons come to a close.  Every player, from the stars to the scrubs, will take something lasting away from that final game at home.  I hope it is happy and positive for all of them, but that’s not all that realistic.  It took me several years to make peace with my unsatisfying college career, but looking back now, I am appreciative of the relationships, and the hard work, and even the disappointment.  And I DO remember what it felt like to play that last home game.  Not quite as bad as the LAST game EVER, but still a strange, introspective, melancholy experience.

Saturday marks the end of an Era for Utah’s seniors.  Hopefully they appreciate the fact that their careers helped usher in a new one as well.

Keep up with ESPN 700 and sign up for our email list!

* indicates required

Download ESPN 700's App


700's 7 Most Viewed

To Top