Logan • Even as Utah State coach Matt spent most of Monday morning smiling as he talked about his team's resurgence, he acknowledged a dark cloud was hanging over the program - and it had nothing to do with football.
Earlier that morning, the team learned senior tight end D.J. Tialavea's father had died after a long struggle with health problems. Wells eyes watered and he choked up as he talked about hearing the news.
"It's a guy who's part of your family," Wells said. "When you get that call early in the morning from a mom, it's not easy to take. I have no idea what D.J. is going through, I've never been through it. We'll be there for him and his family and support him in any way we can."
Tialavea has run the gauntlet of personal challenges this year: His grandmother died over the summer, and his senior year was marred by a season-ending foot fracture.
Wells said he was able to spend a moment with Tialavea on Monday morning. Other teammates passed along public support through Twitter, in additon to private messages and well wishes.
Tialavea is a widely respected member of the team, a captain and an emotional pillar. Wells said his tight end has been stoic in the face of wave after wave of adversity.
"Sometimes life deals you big blows. The kid has had a couple of them. In tough times you find out your character. He's a first-class kid who has been a great player for a long time."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon