Utah football player Britain Covey can recite teammate Maxwell Cotton’s movie credits as a child actor. He knows receiver Jason Heller was nearly 4 years old before he could walk, due to a congenital foot issue. Covey marvels about how Polynesian defensive lineman Pita Tonga becomes almost a different person when he’s speaking Spanish.
And he has all kinds of stories about fellow receiver Samson Nacua — although that’s maybe an unfair example, thanks to their high school days together.
Covey remains hopeful of playing in Utah’s season opener next Thursday at BYU in his hometown of Provo. His rehabilitation from knee surgery required “a couple days off” from full activity in practice this week, Covey said, but coach Kyle Whittingham sounded Wednesday as though he expects Covey to play.
Regardless of when his junior season begins, Covey will be among Utah’s most influential players, on and off the field. He’s a member of the team’s 14-player leadership council that includes senior co-captains Tyler Huntley, Bradlee Anae, Leki Fotu and Darrin Paulo and freshman punter Ben Lennon, the special-teams captain.
In the tradition of former Ute receiver Kenneth Scott, who guided him as a freshman in 2015, Covey covers all corners of the locker room as a one-man welcoming committee.
“That's what we need,” Nacua said. “We need those [leaders] that are willing to go to the back of the team and say hi to the ones that never get talked to, are always getting yelled at by the coaches because they're on the scout team, just to show them that we still love them and care about them.”
Covey is not quite at the level of Scott, who had the advantage of being a sixth-year senior, watching one recruiting class after another join the program. For a Salt Lake Tribune story, Scott once scanned the preseason camp roster and provided a comment about each of his 104 teammates (Scott’s snapshot of Covey: “I even went to his house, and was mesmerized by how big it is.”)
Covey, though, undoubtedly is the only Ute player ever to stand on the practice field and quote the late Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjold: “It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.”
So that’s Covey’s one-on-one game, explaining how he knows the backgrounds of walk-on players such as Cotton, a defensive back from Southern California. “Funny kid,” Covey said of Cotton, who played the title role in “A Dennis the Menace Christmas” in 2007 and acted in “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” starring Jim Carrey, among other roles.
He's close in both physical size and friendship to the 5-foot-5 Heller, being assigned to help him acclimate among the receivers. “He's probably the only person I can call my 'little brother' and still feel like I'm bigger,” Covey joked.
His motivation for welcoming his teammates stems from the examples of Scott and receiver Kenric Young. “I just think about when I first came up here, and I look at people that brought me under their wing,” Covey said. “I just remember how grateful I was for that.”
He goes way back with Nacua, a star receiver at Timpview High School in Covey's quarterbacking days. Their relationship is such that Covey can tell stories about Nacua's laziness in learning the plays, and Nacua is not offended. That's mainly because they're true.
“I wasn't even trying to study my plays,” Nacua said. So when Covey would call a passing play in the huddle, Nacua would ask about his route: “What do I got, Cov?” And then, he said, “I'd just do what he told me to do.”
That’s the kind of influence Covey will have on his Utah teammates, one player at a time.