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USU football: Wyatt Houston has made the most of his opportunity to play at USU

Wyatt Houston will forever be grateful to Utah State head football coach Matt Wells for giving him a shot to play at the next level following a successful high school career.

Wells, Utah State’s fourth-year head coach, was the only coach to offer Houston a scholarship, regardless of division.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it with all the ups and downs,” said Houston, a senior tight end for the Aggies. “It’s just been a great experience for me. I’ve grown up a whole lot as a man and I can’t thank coach Wells enough considering it was my only scholarship, so I’ve got a lot of love for him for giving me this opportunity.”

That opportunity has paid off in a big way for both the Aggies and Houston, despite the fact he switched from quarterback to tight end once he got on campus.

“In high school, when coach Wells wanted me to come out for his camp, he made it clear, ‘We’re recruiting you as a tight end. You’re not even going to throw a pass at this camp,’” Houston said. “I happened to earn my scholarship that day at camp, so that day, I knew I was playing tight end.”

Houston didn’t mind, though. In fact, he would’ve played anywhere Wells and his staff needed him to.

“I just wanted an opportunity,” he said. “Wherever they asked me to play, I would’ve played it. It didn’t matter. I just wanted an opportunity to play college football.”

Now in his senior season with the Aggies, Houston has developed into one of the best tight ends in school history.

“He reminds me of the old-school tight end that played back in the late 1960s and early ’70s, a hard-nosed guy that plays with a chip on his shoulder,” said USU assistant head coach Mike Canales, who works primarily with the Aggie tight ends and running backs. “He is the true epitome of leadership and when you say leadership, he’s that guy. He has all the qualities you want and is a team player; he cares about his teammates.

“He pushes from behind and pulls from the front. He’s that guy and he is definitely the anchor of the running back and tight end room, but you also see it in the offense and how he leads by example and being able to understand the position that leadership entails and the captain that he is.”

Houston has caught at least one pass in 15-straight games, which is the longest active streak on the team and the longest by an Aggie since Hunter Sharp (23 straight).

“He catches the ball in critical situations,” Canales said. “It’s not about plays; it’s about players. That’s the mindset with Wyatt, to get him the ball, and we’re going to continue to try get him the ball even more.”

During his last 15 games, Houston has recorded 46 receptions for 493 yards and four touchdowns.

“No matter who the quarterback is, every single game I tell them, ‘I’m there. I’m your safety valve,’” Houston said. “That’s what the tight end should be, so I just consider myself someone that’s reliable in the passing game.”

For his career, Houston has appeared in 43 games, including starting 26, and caught 81 passes for 884 yards (10.9 ypc) and nine touchdowns. He currently ranks second all-time in school history for touchdown receptions by a tight end, trailing only Chris Cooley (2000-03), who caught 11 touchdowns.

“He loves to play football and he doesn’t like coming out,” Canales said. “If he could play all 70-something plays, he would. He wants to be on the field playing and he loves the game. That just tells you the type of kid he is. He loves the game and that’s what stands out to me about him.”

Houston ranks third on the team in receptions this year with 30 for 281 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s always trying to learn. He’s like a sponge and takes coaching really well,” Canales said. “He wants to get better and he’s a lot like those guys in the NFL that I was fortunate enough to coach, always asking, ‘Coach, how can I become better? How are you going to make me better?’ Wyatt wants to know, he wants feedback. He’s like Peyton Manning. They want constant feedback and that’s what you love about the kid. He wants constant feedback – good, bad, indifferent, it doesn’t matter. He wants to be coached.”

Houston still has high hopes for the Aggies as his career with Utah State winds down.

“I just want to reach a bowl game and win as many games as possible, and enjoy every single minute, whether it’s in practice, in the meeting rooms or in the games,” he said.

Houston planned to redshirt his first season at Utah State in 2013, but injuries forced him onto the field and he ended up playing the final seven games, catching seven passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. He made his collegiate debut against New Mexico and caught his first career pass for 23 yards.

As a sophomore, Houston caught 19 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns, and last season, his production increased even further as he recorded 25 receptions for 307 yards and three touchdowns.

One of his best outings as an Aggie came in a 58-27 victory over Wyoming last year, when he caught four passes for a career-high 66 yards and two touchdowns.

Not only is Houston productive on the field for Utah State, but he gets it done in the classroom, as well. The son of Bill and Susie Houston is a three-time academic all-Mountain West recipient (2013, 2014, 2015) and has maintained a 3.6 grade point average during his time in Logan.

As a freshman at West Linn (Oregon) High School, Houston played tight end on a team that went 9-3 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class 6A state playoffs. Following that season, though, he transferred to Horizon Christian HS, a small private Christian school – there were only 42 students in his graduating class – in Tualatin, Oregon.

Not only did Houston change schools, he also switched positions and became a quarterback who passed for 5,019 yards and 63 touchdowns, to go along with 1,313 yards rushing and 19 more scores on 259 carries, during the next three years.

Despite that, only a handful of colleges were interested in Houston. Upon signing with Utah State, he became the first player in the history of Horizon Christian to sign a Division I national letter of intent.

“They’ve actually retired my jersey from football,” Houston said. “It’s really a unique honor. My football coach, his name is George Crace, is a father figure to me and he’s awesome. He’s helped me out in numerous ways both on and off the field. It means a lot to help him out and help the school out, and just show that you don’t have to come from the biggest schools to get recruited.”

Houston, who is an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers and grew up idolizing Brett Favre, is majoring in sociology and minoring in criminology. He is on track to graduate this December.

Once he is done at Utah State, Houston would love nothing more than to get a shot of playing at the next level.

“I hope I get the opportunity to play in the NFL for as long as I can,” Houston said. “If not, I’ll just go home and work with the family.”