Utah football fans might have thought that was Ben Moa wearing No. 47 last week during one of the most memorable plays in the Utes' 48-6 victory in Logan.

After catching a pass in the right flat midway through the second quarter, big No. 47 bulled his way through one Aggie defender, smacked into another, before finally getting stopped after an 18-yard gain.

Meet Blake Burdette, a walk-on from Olympus High School, who caught his first two passes as a Ute against Utah State, while doing a pretty good imitation of Moa, a star on last year's team.

Burdette is one of several local products who is making his mark with the 14th-ranked unbeaten Utah football team. He's already made an impression on coach Urban Meyer.

"He's a self-made player. I love Blake Burdette," said Meyer. "We're going to start using him more and more."

Against the Aggies, the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Burdette started at the U-back position, which is kind of a cross between the fullback and tight end position. In the first quarter he made the first catch of his career for a 3-yard gain.

Then in the second quarter came the aforementioned play when he caught Alex Smith's pass, only to see USU cornerback Jerome Dennis zeroing in on him.

No problem.

Burdette blasted through Dennis, leaving him helplessly on the turf, and took aim at Andre Bala. He nearly leveled him also, but was wrapped up at the last second and dropped at the 9-yard line after an 18-yard gain.

"I just caught the ball and tried to get as many yards as I could," he said. "Two guys were in my way so I just tried to get it upfield and help the offense."

Although he was not a star at Olympus, never being named all-state or all-region, Burdette was a solid player who displayed the same attributes he's showing at Utah.

For example, a 1997 Deseret News account of a Titan playoff win over Payson reports Burdette scored two touchdowns and added "he might have scored one more if not for an unintentionally great tackle by a referee. Burdette plowed right into the official who couldn't get out of his way in time on Payson's 18."

Actually in high school, Burdette excelled more at rugby, playing on the same Highland team with Ute safety Morgan Scalley, winning a pair of national championships and traveling to play in South Africa.

After graduating from high school and going on an LDS mission, Burdette returned home and enrolled at the U. where he earned All-America honors for the rugby team.

Then he decided to chase his dream.

"I always wanted to play football for the University of Utah," he said. "My dad brought us to the games here ever since I can remember. I wanted to keep living my dream."

He joined the Utes in 2002 under coach Ron McBride and redshirted that season. When coach Meyer took over, he moved to the tight end/U back position and played on special teams, usually on the kickoff return unit.

His only statistic for the year was a six-yard return of a short kickoff against Air Force, this week's opponent (1 p.m. Rice-Eccles Stadium)

Although he's progressed enough to get significant playing time, you won't even find Burdette on the Utes' two-deep chart. At the tight end position, Jon Clark and Willie Sao are 1-2, but there's no U-back position listed. It's one of the many wrinkles in the imaginative Ute offense.

"It's kind of like the fullback of the old days," said Burdette's position coach Keith Uperesa. "It's a mixture of a big blocking back and tight end."

Uperesa said last week's game plan called for using Burdette a lot and he said the Utes will try to utilize Burdette's skills for the rest of the season.

"We're always trying to find ways to include guys like that who can help us expand the offense," Uperesa said. "He's got a little bit of beef on him and can block the backers and down linemen. When he plays, it gives us a different look."

Scalley has known Burdette since high school when they played rugby together, and he's happy to see his old friend find a niche with the Ute offense.

"He's one of the toughest individuals I've ever met," said Scalley. "He's a kid that never quits. When he told me he was going to walk on, I knew they'd find a spot for him. I knew he had the tools and he's shown it."

Who knows if Burdette will start this week or see significant action. But he'll be ready.

"I'm just trying to make a name for myself," he said. "The coaches have given me an opportunity to show what I can do and I'm just trying to make the most of it."


E-mail: sor@desnews.com