SALT LAKE CITY — Utah teamed up with Navy for a special announcement Thursday night: the awarding of a scholarship. The recipient was junior tight end Ali’i Niumatalolo, who has appeared in 21 games (mostly on special teams) for the Utes over the past two seasons. 

The former walk-on was surprised in a team meeting when his father, Ken Niumatalolo, head football coach at the U.S. Naval Academy, joined a Utah gathering via video to break the news. The Navy football team then celebrated with the Utes.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the younger Niumatalolo was very deserving of a scholarship. He praised him as a “great team guy” who has “done nothing but work his tail off and do everything he can do to help the football team” since joining the Utes after serving mission in Chile for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“All he does is work hard and do what you ask him to do and get good grades,” Whittingham said. “And so those are the type of guys you love to have in the program.”

Whittingham and coach Niumatalolo are close friends and worked together on the surprise. It was posted on Twitter by the Utah football social media crew.

CAMP CONCLUDING: Whittingham said Thursday may have been the most grueling day of camp. The Utes handled it well and things were scaled back on Friday. They took the pads off and worked on procedural things like pregame, halftime and sideline routines, as well as mechanics.

Camp concludes Saturday with a scrimmage. Whittingham said the ones will not get any live work. The twos and threes, though, are expected to get a lot of work and be tackled. Special teams is also on the agenda.

EXTRA POINTS: Johnny Maea and Paul Toala have emerged as the leaders at the open guard spot on the offensive line. ... The kicking battle between Andrew Strauch and Nels Haltom is still a work in progress. Whittingham said it’s starting to get some separation.  However, he declined to specify except that Strauch will handle kickoffs. ... Offensive lineman Bamidele Olaseni is still working through NCAA red tape to be able to play in games. The London, England, product went to a couple of different high schools before attending junior college in Kansas.

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