As far as the National Football League is concerned, Utah is quarterback country.
There are some 85 quarterbacks who get regular-season jobs with the 28 NFL teams each season, and this year, six of them are alums of Beehive State schools.That's pretty fair representation for a state with only five universities and three Div. I programs.
And, just coincidentally, several of those QBs are involved in some of the league's more interesting on-going controversies. There's Steve Young, for instance, struggling to overcome the legend of Joe Montana in San Francisco. And there's the often ornery Jim McMahon, snapping at Randall Cunningham's heels in Philadelphia. And you can even throw in Green Bay's Ty Detmer, who has developed a small following among Packer fans who don't think Don Majkowski or Brett Favre can lead them to the Promised Land.
Quarterbacks aside, Utah's NFL representation is about the same this year as in recent years. In 1991, 27 former Utah collegians dotted NFL rosters at season's inception. This year, there are 22, including four rookies.
Here's a closer look at this year's crop of NFL players with Utah connections:
Louie Aguiar, P, Jets, Utah State - He's the starter again, after averaging 39.4 yards per punt his rookie season.
David Archer, QB, Eagles, Snow College - He was signed by the Eagles last December for the last two games of the season, then let go in February. The World Football League's Sacramento Surge then drafted him, and he led them to the WFL title in World Bowl '92, earning Offensive MVP honors. In that come-from-behind championship victory, he completed 22 of 33 for 286 yards and two TDs. For the season he completed 194 of 317 passes for 2,964 yards and 23 TDs, with only seven interceptions. His 107.0 passing rating led the league. Archer had previously played for Atlanta, Washington and San Diego in his seven-year pro career. With the Eagles, he's third-string behind Cunningham and McMahon.
Jason Buck, DL, Redskins, BYU - What a hard-luck story. Deemed not good enough to play for the Cincinnati Bengals, who finished last season 3-13, the 1986 Outland Trophy winner landed a job with the Washington Redskins and ended up with a Super Bowl ring. Buck was expected to be pressed this season, but he reportedly worked hard in the off-season and nailed down the backup job.
Anthony Davis, LB, Oilers, Utah - One of only two players with local ties to be taken in this year's draft (the other was some QB from BYU), Davis will be playing behind ex-Aggie Al Smith.
Ty Detmer, QB, Packers, BYU - The Heisman Trophy winner and 9th-round draft pick is third-string now, but Majkowski's injury problems have kept him from living up to his "Majik Man" billing of 1989, and Favre threw one interception every 11 passes in the preseason. Figuring that Majkowski and Favre will both be given decent chances to move the club, it will probably take a dismal record at midseason - or a rash of injuries - before Detmer gets a chance.
Moe Elewonibi, OL, Redskins, BYU - This is the 1989 Outland Trophy winner's third year in the league, and he hasn't played a down. He spent last season on injured reserve.
Bob Gagliano, QB, Chargers, Utah State - What a long, strange trip it's been. The quarterback that has been released by various teams 10 times since 1981 has won the starting job in San Diego, thanks to an injury to John Friesz. Last year Gagliano appeared in two games, completing 9 of 23. He's been with four NFL teams and one USFL team since he graduated from Utah State in 1981.
Kurt Gouveia, LB, Redskins, BYU - His playing time has increased every season, and coaches have always been high on him.
Lee Johnson, P, Bengals, BYU - Had his best season yet in '91, averaging 43.7 yards per punt, with no blocks.
Greg Kragen, DL, Broncos, Utah State - Another survivor. Early in his career the Broncos sought his replacement every year. Now he's firmly entrenched as the starting nose guard, where he had his highest sack total last year, 3.5.
Trevor Matich, OL, Colts, BYU -- A Plan B signee who spent the past two seasons with the Jets, Matich is a utility man, according to a Colts spokesman. Besides backing up a couple of offensive line positions, he's also the long snapper.
Jim McMahon, QB, Eagles, BYU - Played in 12 games for the Eagles while Cunningham was out with an injury. He completed 60.1 percent of his passes. Created a stir during camp because he felt coaches weren't giving him the chance to compete with Cunningham that they allegedly promised.
Scott Mitchell, QB, Dolphins, Utah - Still waiting and watching behind perennial Pro Bowler Dan Marino. Spent his off-season leading the Orlando Thunder to the World Bowl, which he lost to David Archer and the Sacramento Surge.
Bart Oates, C, Giants, BYU - Has played in the Pro Bowl the past two seasons. Has been with the Giants since 1985.
Alfred Pupunu, TE, Chiefs, Weber State - A late-bloomer, Pupunu made the Chiefs' roster as a free agent.
Roger Ruzek, PK, Eagles, Weber State - Made 28 of 33 field goals and 27 of 29 extra points in 1991.
Vai Sikahema, RB, Eagles, BYU - On the depth chart, he's the No. 1 punt returner, No. 3 kickoff returner and No. 3 halfback, behind Herschel Walker and Siran Stacy. With Green Bay last year, he averaged 9.2 yards per punt return and 21.7 per kickoff return.
Al Smith, LB, Oilers, Utah State - Easily the most unsung of the Utah group, Smith merely made the Pro Bowl team last season.
Rodney Thomas, CB, 49ers, BYU - He played three games for the Rams last season before going on injured reserve with a knee injury for the rest of the year. San Francisco signed him in March; now he's on their injured reserve list.
Walter Watts, DL, Raiders, Utah - The former Ute basketball center was nearing the final cuts when he was put on injured reserve. That's a positive note, though; they could have cut him.
Leon White, LB, Bengals, BYU - With Cincinnati since 1986, White is the starter at outside backer. He hasn't missed a game in four seasons.
Steve Young, QB, 49ers, BYU - He led the league in pass efficiency (101.8) and completed 64.5 percent of his passes and still had to listen to the grumblings of fans and teammates who said Steve Bono (88.5, 59.5) was better. Montana is again on injured reserve, and Young is the starter, but Bono's still around, too. Here we go again.
Two players who aren't on this list but will probably see action this season are Glen Kozlowski and Darryl Pollard. Kozlowski was cut by the Bears on Monday but is expected to be re-signed Wednesday if he clears waivers - a procedure the Bears put him through last year, too. Bears coach Mike Ditka likes Kozlowski's gung-ho special-teams play and has said as long as he's coach there will be a roster spot for Koz. Last year he caught two passes, his lowest total in five years with Chicago.
Pollard was cut by the 49ers on Monday, apparently after refusing to take a $40,000 pay cut. If the Niners don't eventually sign him, he seems likely to land a job elsewhere.
Other locals cut on the final day included Manny Hendrix, the former Ute basketball player who spent the past six seasons with the Cowboys and was in the Bills camp this fall; former BYU players Eric Bergeson (Patriots), Mike Keim (Saints) and Peter Tuipulotu (Chargers); and ex-Aggie receiver Rod Moore (Seahawks).
Among the more prominent locals released during the preseason were defensive lineman Craig Patterson (BYU), who started 13 games for the Cardinals last season; former Snow College quarterback Mike Norseth; ex-Weber QB Jeff Carlson; and linebacker Hal Garner (USU), a five-year veteran with the Bills.
Utahns in the NFL
Player, School NFL team Pos. Exper. Chart
Louie Aguiar, USU Jets P 1 Starter
David Archer, Snow Eagles QB 6 Third
Jason Buck, BYU Redskins DL 5 No chart
Anthony Davis, Utah Oilers LB R No chart
Ty Detmer, BYU Packers QB R Third
Moe Elewonibi, BYU Redskins OL 2 No chart
Bob Gagliano, USU Chargers QB 6 Starter
Kurt Gouveia, BYU Redskins LB 5 No chart
Lee Johnson, BYU Bengals P 7 Starter
Greg Kragen, USU Broncos DL 7 Starter
Trevor Matich, BYU Colts OL 7 Second
Jim McMahon, BYU Eagles QB 10 Second
Scott Mitchell, Utah Dolphins QB 1 Second
Bart Oates, BYU Giants C 7 Starter
Alfred Pupunu, Weber Chiefs TE R No chart
Roger Ruzek, Weber Eagles PK 5 Starter
Vai Sikahema, BYU Eagles KR 6 Starter
Al Smith, USU Oilers LB 5 Starter
Rodney Thomas, BYU 49ers CB 4 Inj. Res.
Walter Watts, Utah Raiders DL R Inj. Res.
Leon White, BYU Bengals LB 6 Starter
Steve Young, BYU 49ers QB 7 Starter