Britain Covey, Utah football’s ‘old man,’ is prepared to wait out the pandemic to play again

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah wide receiver Britain Covey (18) breaks a tackle and heads down field for the Utes, in football action between Northern Illinois Huskies and Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.

Britain Covey hears the jokes, but in fairness, jokes about how old he is and how long he has been at the University of Utah are probably valid.

Still only a redshirt junior at the age of 23 after taking a two-year LDS mission during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Covey’s first collegiate game was against the University of Michigan in 2015. The game stands out because it was Jim Harbaugh’s head-coaching debut with the Wolverines, which, on a college football timeline, feels like a lifetime ago.

With no fall football for the Pac-12, and no promise of a winter/spring season at this point, Covey, aware of his age and injury history, plans to play out the final two years of his career at Utah, at which point it would theoretically be the fall of 2022 and he will be 25.

Instead of waiting for those jokes to come in two years, Covey is getting out in front of them.

“If I do, I’ll be the first grandpa in college football history,” Covey joked to The Salt Lake Tribune late last week. “I know my age is a running joke, but honestly, I feel like I’m in my prime and my body is where it’s never been before. You look at the NFL, the best wide receivers, the average age is 27, 28-years old. Those guys are craftsmen, but they needed to mature and develop. I think I’m just entering that phase.”

Covey continues to believe the NFL is an attainable goal, but he’s keeping it in the back of his mind with more pressing matters to deal with in the present.

After taking a redshirt last season, the byproduct of his surgically-repaired right ACL not allowing him to go full speed following injuring it in the 2018 Pac-12 championship game, Covey showed up at spring practice in March looking like the dynamic slot receiver and return specialist he was before the injury.

COVID-19 altered the course of the 2020 season, but the Pac-12 released a 10-game, conference-only schedule on July 31. That offered renewed optimism for a fall season, with Utah readying to open Sept. 26 at Washington State.

Even with the optimism, speculation remained of a postponement. In this day and age of social media and seconds-long news cycles, that information is hard to hide from players. Covey admitted he and his teammates saw what the media was saying on Twitter, admitted it was hard to practice and stay focused not knowing if there would be a season.

On Aug. 11, one day after the Big Ten pulled the plug on a fall season, the Pac-12 did the same, postponing all sports until at least Jan. 1.

“It was almost a sigh of relief because at least we had something concrete after wondering if there would be a season or not,” Covey said. “For someone like me, coming back, looking to prove myself, it’s pretty frustrating, but you have to find silver linings. We don’t have control over it. Right now, we focus on our bodies, we focus on school. Personally, I’d like to put on some more weight.”

Covey is about to have plenty of time for both working out and school with no season through at least the end of the calendar year. What exactly the next few months look like for Utah’s football program is still getting worked out.

The NCAA Division I Council on Aug. 19 approved a Football Oversight Committee recommendation to allow teams impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic 12 hours per week of football activity. Within the 12 hours per week of football activity, five can be spent doing contactless drills, including work with a football, with the other seven spent on meetings, plus strength and conditioning.

On a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he plans to ramp football activities up again starting Monday after the fall semester started on campus this week. The plan is to have players in the weight room Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and on the field Tuesdays and Thursdays, but Whittingham indicated he is still waiting for more details about what is and isn’t allowed on the field.

The NCAA was vague on Aug. 19 as it relates to on-field stuff saying in its press release, “no more than five of those [12] hours can be skill instruction, during which footballs, helmets and spider pads can be used.”

Twelve-hour rules will run through Oct. 4, at which point the NCAA intends to reevaluate. By that time, there may be more clarity on how the Pac-12 plans to move forward in terms of a winter/spring football season.

However it all plays out, Britain Covey plans to be a part of it. The old man will still be hanging around.

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