The most exciting thing he did in five years at Camp Carbon was last season when Henry Lusk got up at 3 a.m., with the rest of the team, and jogged two miles before returning to bed.
"Guess the coach couldn't sleep," says Lusk. "And if he wasn't going to sleep, neither was anyone else."As Lusk can attest, the Utes are back at Camp Carbon, the unofficial gulag of the University of Utah football team. This is the place they prepare players for the loneliness and monotony of such outposts as Laramie and El Paso. This is where they wear their football helmets most of the day, and when they're not wearing football helmets they're watching football films and reading football playbooks and hearing football lectures and eating football food and dreaming football dreams.
"You come here, it's business and business only," says Lusk. "We tell the young guys that if they're not here on business, they're on the wrong team."
The Utes' trek to the campus of the College of Eastern Utah has become an annual ritual. Once the weather turns dusty and hot in Salt Lake, Camp Carbon can't be far behind. Soon to follow are 16-hour days of football and three meals a day in the student union.
"Nobody's complained," says coach Ron McBride. "Well, at least not to me."
McBride's idea to get the Utes out of Salt Lake City and into the coal country of Price came as a result of his experience coaching at other schools. As an assistant at Wisconsin, McBride went with the Badgers to a Catholic seminary, eight miles outside Madison, for their annual two-a-days sessions. "They had guards at each of the gates," he says.
After moving to Arizona, he participated in the preseason drills at Camp Cochise, near the Mexican border. "Camp Carbon is the the University Park Hotel compared to that," he adds.
Once installed as the Utes' head coach, McBride began trying to find a suitable place to sequester his new team, away from the distractions of everyday campus life. "The idea is to keep them confined," McBride says.
McBride considered Camp Williams, a military installation near Point of the Mountain, which was long on confinement but short on facilities. "Hey, I liked that place," says McBride. "It was all fenced in with barbed wire. Nobody was going anywhere."
He considered moving his camp to Park City, but decided that the facilities were inadequate and there was too much to do. If getting away from distractions was the idea, hot air ballooning or mountain biking over the Guardsman Pass trail or taking the alpine slide at 60 mph wasn't exactly the answer.
They considered Snow College in Ephraim but there was already a college football team using the weight room and the playing field.
Finally the Utes discovered Camp Carbon. As far as McBride was concerned, it was a match made in heaven. "My kind of town, my kind of people," he says. "A blue collar place."
Indeed it is a place the Utes would have trouble finding trouble. A place where the graffiti under the freeway contains "Becky Loves Eric" instead of gang insignias. Where the entertainment options include walking across the street to the Milky Way malt shop or downtown to the Price Theater to catch "Flintstones" at the dollar flicks.
Not a great place for trouble, but a wonderful place for a boot camp.
McBride's plan to keep the players so busy with football that they can't get in trouble has worked relatively well over the years. Following a 15-hour day of football overkill, their activities are usually confined to a rousing game of hearts in the dorms.
"Or," says McBride, "when they're not practicing or meeting, they can sleep to their hearts' content."
Highlight of the week is a visit to the Desert Wave Pool, where the Utes get in on a group pass.
Thus, the Utes head toward another season via Camp Carbon. No cars and no girlfriends allowed. "There's no social life," says senior Luther Elliss. "It's all football."
Because at Camp Carbon, there aren't any night clubs in the vicinity and certainly no hot air balloons or alpine slides. Which is fine with the Utes. This isn't Club Med. This is Camp Carbon. And if you're not here on business, you've found the wrong team.