SALT LAKE CITY — For the second straight summer, Utah wide receiver Britain Covey will be working his way back into playing condition.

A year ago, Covey was shaking off the rust after serving a mission in Chile for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This time around, he’s bouncing back from a couple of significant injuries. Covey suffered a broken wrist early in the season against Arizona, then tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee during the Pac-12 championship game.

“It actually is comforting having already had to go through the mission rust now because you know that you can come back from something like that,” Covey said. “They’re different, but just going through that process kind of gives you confidence that you can go through this process.”

Covey compared it to reaching the midway point of a two-year mission, with the realization that there’s still work to do.

“It’s kind of daunting,” Covey said. “I'd say that’s where I was at a little bit ago.”

He’s a playmaker. You give him the ball, he’s going to make a play at any time of the game, any moment. – Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley, on wide receiver Britain Covey

Being able to move pretty well and start jogging, he explained, is tempered with the knowledge that there is still three or four months of rehab remaining.

And that, Covey explained, is kind of shocking.

“So I would say that’s the biggest challenge — just when you’re doing everything that you can and working so hard and your body doesn’t respond the way you want it to to treatments, or to rehab, that’s the frustrating part,” he said. “Because you have no control over that. You have control over how hard you work and how much rehab you do and how much physical therapy you do, but you don’t control how your body responds.”

Senior receiver Demari Simpkins is impressed by Covey’s determination. The 5-foot-7, 170-pound Covey stands tall despite his small stature.

“He’s a great teammate. It shows. He’s very vocal in our room. You can see how hard he’s working just to get back for summer workouts. He doesn’t say like he’s trying to get back for fall camp, he’s saying he wants to get back for summer workouts because that’s when the grind starts,” Simpkins said. “He just wants to get back with his team and I’m just proud of him. I’m proud of how he came back and showed up for his team this past year and I’m excited for him this year.”

Simpkins wasn’t finished.

“He probably has the most heart on the team,” he added. “He’s so small. Last year, he took so many hits and just bounced back from them. He had so many injuries nobody would ever know of. He’s always in the training room after every game because he’s taken so many hits. So he’s a real dog.”

In his two seasons with the Utes — in 2015 and 2018 — Covey led the team in receptions both years. He had 43 catches as a Freshman All-American and 60 as a sophomore. In addition, Covey led Utah with 1,174 all-purpose yards last year.

“He’s a playmaker. You give him the ball, he’s going to make a play at any time of the game, any moment,” said Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley. “So you always want to give him that ball. It doesn’t matter how he gets the ball, he’s going to make a play.”

Covey is a two-time all-conference punt returner and also excels in the classroom. The business management major netted national and Pac-12 academic recognition.

Tough and full of faith

Covey credits much of his toughness to having older brothers. He also noted that much of his mentality comes with trying to be successful despite size limitations.

“So in a way I do think it’s part of my DNA, or at least who I’ve chosen to be,” Covey said. “I’ve always, you know, thought that when you play scared you’re more vulnerable to injury.”

That, he added, is an interesting paradox.

Covey joked that he kind of liked having some battle wounds from football, saying it’ll make for some great stories some day when he’s a grandpa.

On a serious note, though, it’s still just a game to him.

Utah Utes wide receiver Britain Covey (18) gets into the open field during a run as Utah and Washington play in the Pac-12 championship game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018.
Utah wide receiver Britain Covey gets into the open field during a run as Utah and Washington play in the Pac-12 Championship game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“It kind of puts things into perspective again — just like how the mission did and just like how any injury does,” Covey said. “You realize that you could never base your life around something as susceptible to change as football.”

The fickleness of things like sports, he continued, can change in a moment.

“I think that’s just the biggest lesson and takeaway that I have from this experience is you can’t base you life around things that are susceptible to change,” Covey said. “To be honest, that’s basically everything in life.”

Besides football, Covey said that includes school, work and even family.

“Now I’m getting more religious and spiritual, but the only thing you can base your life around is Jesus Christ,” he continued. “Because he is the only thing that will always remain constant and you can have 100 percent assurance and confidence that he will be constant.”

Covey’s belief system is self-described as his rock and foundation. That said, he’s determined to decide what he’s going to get out of football — whether he’s injured, on the bench or on the field.

“I think I’m just grateful because people that don’t play college sports, they don’t realize how much the stars have to align for you to be successful,” Covey said. “It’s not just you. You have to have the right coach. You have to have the right system. You have to get your opportunities and then play well when you get your opportunities. Oftentimes, it’s a business.”

Prepared for the challenge

Covey noted that the only reason he was able to get an opportunity in fall camp as a true freshman — moving up the ladder from fourth string — was because of an injury to Bubba Poole that juggled things around.

In addition to stars aligning, Covey said work ethic also comes into play as does how much you want it. He is eager to get back on the field after missing the Holiday Bowl and determined to return as soon as possible, spending hours in pursuit thereof — often working out and doing his rehab in solitude.

“Yes, I am confident. (But) I am not confident, yet, as to when, because like I said, there are things that are out of my control — like how my body reacts,” Covey said. “But anybody that knows me knows how hard I’m going to work to get back.”

Covey’s goal is to be back by the end of July.

Utah Ute receiver Britain Covey works out in Salt Lake City on April 23, 2019.
Utah Ute receiver Britain Covey works out in Salt Lake City on April 23, 2019. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

After growing up in Utah County and quarterbacking Timpview High to championships in 2013 and 2014 (which included a 26-game winning streak at one point), Covey is looking forward to playing a game at BYU. The Utes open the 2019 season Aug. 29 in Provo.

“I know it sounds funny but my dream since I was 3 years old is to play at LaVell Edwards Stadium. I’ve had season tickets there my whole entire life and so this is my chance to play there as a Ute, which I’m very happy about,” Covey said. “But it’s just cool because I grew up in that stadium and it would be almost like a monumental experience in my life.”

As for how Covey ended up at the U., he insists it isn’t that complicated — even though he wanted to be a Cougar for much of his life. However, he explained, you start opening your mind more as you grow older. BYU and Utah both offered him scholarships as a junior.

“You pick the things that are most important to you and you base your decision on that,” Covey said. “Then whatever decision you make, you just run with it.”

That’s how Covey rolls, even with his injury situation. This is a guy who played most of the 2018 season with a broken wrist — wearing a cast from Sundays to Saturdays and wearing little pads over it for games. He admitted it was especially painful returning punts.

As part of his recovery, Covey goes to the gym most days and shoots 100 free throws to rebuild strength in his wrist. It’s part of the process to get healthy again.

“He’s way ahead of schedule with his rehab and doing just great,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who noted Covey is champing at the bit. “It couldn’t be better at this point and barring a setback, he should be ready to roll without question by the season.

“He’s a fierce competitor and he’s going to do everything humanly possible to get himself ready for the season,” he continued. “Like I said, he’s already got a great start on it. He’s doing just fine and we’re looking forward to getting him back.”