Jameson Field saw an old friend on the sidelines inside Rice-Eccles Stadium on Friday afternoon — one Utah fans know quite well — and wanted to catch up.
So the 5-foot-11, 180-pound, fifth-year senior weaved through players stopped at various areas of the south-side end zone going through interviews at the conclusion of Utah’s first spring scrimmage.
Field was catching up with former Utah receiver Tim Patrick, now in the NFL with the Denver Broncos. The two nearly reached the pavement of the ramp to leave the stadium when a sports information director chased Field down for a last-minute interview request.
Patrick decided to hang around, even holding out his own iPhone and posing questions to his former teammate.
His first question to Field revolved around his senior-year goals.
Field didn’t hesitate.
“I want to start every special teams play, I want to be a special teams captain,” he said, “and then start on offense.”
Nothing in fall is earned in spring, only bricks laid to a foundation that might be built upon when the team reconvenes in late summer to prepare for the 2018 season. Field, who grew up in Long Beach, Calif., knows it. But the lone senior of a young wide receiver corps is finally making an impression coaches had hoped for.
“I think there’s also a sense of urgency [for him],” Utah wide receivers coach Guy Holliday said. “Like, this is it. It’s either now or never, so I think he’s adapted to that.”
It started a year ago when Field won a starting role on special teams, playing in all 13 games. He appeared on offense in eight games and had just two catches for 12 years in the loss against Arizona State. Admittedly, it took a while to flip the switch. Field walked on in 2014, was awarded a scholarship and played in six games as a true freshman. The next two years were growing pains.
He redshirted in 2015. In 2016, he was on the scout team.
“College life kind of took a toll in my earlier years here and it took a lot of growing up and maturity to do,” he said, “but now, I feel like I’ve got a hold of that and I can actually focus on being a football player.”
This spring, he’s running with the first-string offense in practice, working alongside starting quarterback Tyler Huntley — a throwback to 2016 when the two would stay late after practice when Huntley was a true freshman to get extra work in. His size and quickness, coaches say, will allow him to compete for minutes as a slot receiver this fall.
“From what I see is, I think he’s more focused, more determined to make an impact,” offensive coordinator Troy Taylor said. “I think he has more confidence, and somewhere along the line, he could help us. And we knew it. We always knew he could.”
Come fall, his final few months as a Ute will feature competition against the likes of returning Britain Covey as well as sophomore Samson Nacua and redshirt freshman Jaylen Dixon. Like all things coming to an end, Field felt the need to press the issue starting with himself.
“I want to make first-down plays, I want to make catches that are important, I want to catch touchdowns,” he said, “I just want to be a part of winning.”
In order to reach a goal he understands might not come, he’s staying hours after practice, coming in on Saturdays off to do whatever it takes to give himself more of a shot.
“Jameson has really turned the corner,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “How much that translates to playing time, we’ll see. We’re continuing to see how he performs. But attitude-wise and leadership-wise, outstanding.”
Life in cleats will end, and soon.
Field’s already working on his next step. On track to have his bachelor’s degree in hand in the fall, Field plans on becoming a fireman and already is taking EMT courses.
“It’s gone by fast,” Field said. “I’m just trying to make the most of it every single day.”