Provo • A little more than a month after BYU running back coach AJ Steward left Provo for Tucson to join the Arizona staff, the Cougars have finally found a replacement. And they didn’t have to look very far to find him.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake on Thursday announced the hiring of Harvey Unga for the position. Unga, a former BYU running back himself, had already taken over the position on an interim basis after Steward’s departure.
But now it's official.
“Harvey is a great young coach who was an elite player for BYU and is an extremely humble person,” Sitake said. “He knows the game, related well to the players and has done an outstanding job the past four years on staff. We are excited to have him step into this role, and know he will excel in helping the young men in our program learn, grow and develop.”
Unga has been part of the Cougars' staff for four years as a graduate assistant coach on the offensive side and has worked with the offensive line and wide receivers, as well as running backs.
The former BYU great earned his bachelor’s degree in recreation management from BYU in 2012 and will complete a master’s of public administration this year at the BYU Marriott School of Business.
“I am extremely excited about this opportunity,” Unga said. “It is humbling. … The boys on the team have all been supportive of me, and I can’t wait to help them achieve their goal.”
Unga played for the Cougars in 2006-09 and became the only BYU player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. By the time the Provo native finished his collegiate career, Unga became the Cougars' all-time leading rusher with 3,455 rushing yards.
His record stood until 2016 when Jamaal Williams surpassed him in Unga's first year as a graduate assistant on the coaching staff.
Unga also helped in the development of All-American offensive lineman Tejan Koroma while working with BYU's offensive line.
As a player, the Timpview product earned Freshman All-American honors in 2007 after redshirting in 2006 and rushing for 1,227 yards to set a Mountain West Conference freshman record and win MWC Freshman of the Year honors. With 655 receiving yards, his 1,840 all-purpose yards shattered the previous MWC record of 1,328 set in 2002.
The following season, Unga ran for 1,132 yards and 11 touchdowns while adding four receiving scores and 309 yards. He earned Sophomore All-America Team honorable mention by College Football News.
In his final season in 2009, Unga topped the 1,000-yard mark for the third time with 1,087 yards and another 11 touchdowns en route to earning his third consecutive MWC all-conference selection.
Unga finished with a career 3,455 rushing yards, 36 rushing touchdowns, 1,085 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns and is still No. 2 in career rushing yards at BYU. He is also No. 2 in rushing attempts (696), No. 2 in total touchdowns (45), No. 5 in scoring (272) and No. 4 in all-purpose yards (4,540).
The Chicago Bears selected Unga in the 2010 NFL Supplemental Draft and was with the Bears for parts of the 2010-13 seasons. He also played with the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014 before concluding his NFL career.