Utah football: Mike Honeycutt emerging as defensive leader
Utah defensive back Mike Honeycutt is a man who seizes opportunities. When he was offered a scholarship by a major football program that would honor his desire to go on a mission before enrolling, he committed.
Given the assignment of serving in Rio de Janeiro, he made the most of his time there by becoming fluent in Portuguese with a goal of returning to Brazil to open some businesses.
When he was given a chance to shine on special teams for the Utes, he did by earning a reputation as a hard-hitting, speedy player.
Finally offered a major role in a huge game, it was no surprise that Honeycutt excelled by blasting through BYU's offensive line to get quarterback Taysom Hill twice.
Honeycutt now has a more permanent role with the Utes. He has claimed the starting nickel job.
"I'm going to make the most of it," he said. "What you can do is all you can do, and I plan to work hard each day."
No one questions Honeycutt's work ethic. Corner Keith McGill immediately mentioned Honeycutt when asked who sets the pace for the defense.
"He might not be the biggest guy on the field, but he plays hard every time," McGill said. "He has worked hard and he has earned it."
Defensive tackle Tenny Palepoi said about the only thing he knew about Honeycutt when he joined the Utes was Honeycutt's reputation as a hard-working guy.
"If there is a definition in Webster's dictionary for hard-working, it should have his face on it," Palepoi said. "He has helped out the defense a lot."
Honeycutt doesn't have the most intimidating frame on the football field at just 5-foot-10 and 181 pounds. But even a brief conversation reveals his intensity.
He is curt, to the point, and speaks with the same intensity he brings to the defense.
Honeycutt, a graduate of Lone Peak High School, caught the Utes' attention with his 4.4 speed in the 40 and his hard-hitting ways. He has spent the last three years on special teams, but he was called upon to take down Hill in the BYU game.
"He was a special teams phenom for us ever since he was a freshman," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Now that it is his time to play in the defensive package, he has done a great job and embraced his role and has really been a pleasant surprise for us."
He did so well that he now is considered an integral part of Utah's defense. He has six tackles and a fumble recovery this season.
"The main thing is having the right mentality," Honeycutt said about his success. "You have to have the mentality of going hard every play."
To remind himself to always go hard, Honeycutt has several tattoos on his left arm. One is of a male figure with a crown melting on his head as a reminder the only person who can take you down is yourself.
Another is of an astronaut.
"They said we couldn't get to the moon once, and we did," Honeycutt said. "It's a reminder you can beat expectations."
It's no surprise that Honeycutt has his future mapped out, just as he did his goal of earning playing time with the Utes.
Honeycutt wants to move back to Brazil and open up some businesses.
"They don't have many American food businesses there or anything like that, so it would be a good selling market," he said. "I love it there. The culture, climate and sun is a switch from Utah and snow."
That is his long-term goal. His short-term quest? Beat Stanford.
"They're a tough team, but we match up well with them," he said. "We just have to execute and play hard."
Year • Senior
Height • 5-foot-10
Weight • 181 pounds
Hometown • Cedar Hills, Utah
Of note • Runs a 4.4 in the 40. â¦ Signed with Utah in 2007 then served a mission before joining Utes in 2010. â¦ Has played primarily on special teams, with his best game before the 2013 season being two tackles against Oregon State in 2012. â¦ Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention in 2011. â¦ Majoring in communication.
No. 5 Stanford at Utah
P Saturday, 4 p.m.