Utah football: DeVonte Christopher regaining respect
When DeVonte Christopher sent out those tweets last December, mocking Boise State by calling it "Girlse State," Christopher's main worry wasn't the repercussions from Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, his teammates or even the Broncos.
He was more worried about his name and the overall damage he might have done to his family.
"I know I am a good person, but a lot of people looked at me differently because of that whole Twitter situation," he remembers. "I was just having fun and it became a bigger deal than I thought it would and I know it made a lot of fans upset. But I have a good heart and I'm a hard worker."
Christopher has spent the 2011 season trying to make everyone forget about the Internet smack talk and instead focus on his good qualities.
He has managed to do a good job at that, despite Utah's reliance on the running game in quarterback Jordan Wynn's absence.
Christopher leads Utah in receptions (38), receiving yards (589), yards per catch (15.5) and touchdown catches (4).
While the numbers are solid, perhaps the area he has gained the main respect is the way he plays. He took several hard hits in the BYU game but never shied away from sacrificing himself for a catch, even though he felt it later.
"That was one of the roughest games I've had," he said. "It was hit after hit. I felt that game for several days."
A former high school quarterback, Christopher resisted the move to receiver at first, but his play this year shows he has embraced it, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
"He is our big-play guy," Whittingham said. "He's still learning the subtle nuances of the game but he has made a lot of progress and has great body control. He's been able to get his body twisted to make some great acrobatic plays several times this year."
Christopher said his effort on the field is born out of his background.
As a child growing up in the over-the-top town of Las Vegas, Christopher's roots were grounded in old-fashioned values that were instilled in him by his family.
Raised by a single mother with four other siblings, Christopher and his older sister, Tajana, did their part to take care of each other and the family.
"My dad was always in the picture but it was really just us," Christopher said. "We learned a lot of responsibility. My sister and I would walk to school every morning. We'd come home and I'd learn how to cook to make something for us, and then she became a cheerleader and I was at football practice and mom would meet us at practice and we'd all catch the bus back home. That is how things happened for us."
Christopher credits the three women in his life, his mother, sister and grandmother, for keeping him on the straight and narrow. His mother was the one who was the disciplinarian, making sure he obeyed to the point his one tiny run-in with the law left him terrified.
"My friends and I used to take shopping carts and set them up in the parking lots and use them as basketball goals," Christopher said. "One day, a cop pulled us over and told us we were doing something wrong. He drove me home in the cop car, that was the last straw for me, mom didn't have to worry about me no more.
"Where I grew up, it was a small community and everybody knew everybody," Christopher said. "If you did something wrong, it would get back to your mom, your grandma or your auntie or whoever. It would find its way back, so I learned at an early age that you are always representing your family no matter what you are doing and your name is a big reflection of who you are."
His sister, meanwhile, was the academic in the family who sparked his competitive nature in a classroom performance battle.
"She was the goody-two-shoes, but she was seriously the main reason I stayed in school," Christopher said. "She'd come home with progress reports with all A's or outstanding citizenships, and I was like, 'Dang, I thought I was good.' We competed all through high school and she pushed me academically more than anyone."
His grandmother taught him humility by creating a family tradition of helping at the homeless shelter.
"I can't remember how many meals we'd put together or bagging up utensils or wrapping hundreds of gifts and boxes of socks and toothpaste and stuff like that to give to people," Christopher said.
Christopher excelled in his own ways, earning the Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year honor as a senior at Canyon Springs High School and serving as the team captain in 2006 and 2007. He also lettered in track, basketball and baseball and was an honor roll student all four years in high school.
While the Twitter incident won't exactly be remembered as one of the smartest things he has done, Christopher has earned the respect of his teammates, lineman Tony Bergstrom said.
"We all do things sometimes you want to take back," he said. "But we live and die as a team. We're not going to sit around and say, 'Oh this is your fault, you did this and this.' "
This year Christopher has made it a point to let his play do the talking for him, something that hasn't gone unnoticed by his teammates.
"He is a big competitor who doesn't want to lose," running back John White said. "He does his thing, goes hard and doesn't complain. We've run the ball a lot this year and haven't passed too much, but he has stuck in there and made the most of his passes."
Christopher still feels he has more to do, on and off the field. The speech communications major said he hopes to give back to society in some form, as a way to pay homage to the values his grandmother instilled in him. On the field, he hopes he can be more of a help to his team this year than he was last year when he went without a catch in Utah's 26-3 loss to Boise State.
"My family is my motivation," he said. "I want to reach out and help the younger guys on the team if they are having problems and be a good role model. I want to be successful, that is my main goal."
DeVonte Christopher, game by game
Opponent Rec Yds TD
Montana St. 2 11 1
USC 11 136 1
BYU 3 58 0
Washington 5 125 0
ASU 2 21 0
Pitt DNP injury
Cal DNP injury
Oregon St. 1 3 1
Arizona 3 79 1
UCLA 2 17 0
Washington St. 5 83 0
Colorado 4 56 0