SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s season opener has extra-special meaning for wide receiver and return specialist Britain Covey. It’ll be a homecoming of sorts for a guy who, by his own estimation, missed only one BYU home game per season since second grade through his days in high school.
“I can still remember my seat and section — portal PP,” Covey said. “I’ve got great memories there.”
Covey recalls watching some of his favorite players like Todd Watkins, Austin Collie, Jordan Pendleton and Bryan Kehl take the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Despite being a regular in the stands, though, Covey has yet to play a single down at the stadium. After a stellar career at nearby Timpview High, where he led the Thunderbirds to state championships in 2013 and 2014, Covey opted to leave Utah County and play for the Utes.
And as luck would have it — more specifically the schedule-maker — his only interactions against his hometown team have come in the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl and last season at Rice-Eccles Stadium. He was serving a church mission in Chile when the rivals last met in Provo.
Now, as the game moves back there for next week’s opener, Covey is coming off rehab for a knee injury that kept him out of the Holiday Bowl last December. The junior is determined to play at the stadium for what will likely be the first and only time in his career.
“I’m going to do everything I can to get on the field. Not just because it’s been a dream of mine to play there, but because I feel like I can contribute,” Covey said. “If I felt like I was at 70% and the other receivers were better than me — better than my 70% — then I’d be a detriment to the team and I wouldn’t try to play.”
Although coming back from a knee injury suffered in the Pac-12 championship game loss at Washington has been “frustrating” at times, Covey has tried not to get too high or too low during the process. Things have gone well and he’s ticketed to reclaim his starting job as a receiver and as an all-conference return specialist.
- 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. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
- Utah Utes wide receiver Britain Covey (18) breaks the tackle of UCLA Bruins defensive back Quentin Lake (37) after making a catch during the University of Utah versus UCLA football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. Steve Griffin, Deseret News
- Utah Utes wide receiver Britain Covey (18) limps back onto the field after being injured as Utah and Washington play in the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Washington won 10-3. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
- Utah Utes wide receiver Britain Covey (18) is unable to gain yardage after a catch during a game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
- Utah Utes wide receiver Britain Covey (18) has some fun during practice in Salt Lake City on Aug 2, 2018. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
As such, Covey will (most likely) finally get to play in a game at BYU.
“Yeah. It’s strange,” he said. “After having been to that stadium so many times, it’s strange that I’ll only get one game there.”
And there was a time when that looked doubtful. Covey acknowledged there were some discussions about having him gear up for the Pac-12 opener against USC and perhaps not play in nonconference games against BYU, Northern Illinois and Idaho State.
“But I think that throughout fall camp I’ve had enough progress and enough reps where I can feel comfortable about trying to go early on,” he said.
On Wednesday, Covey said he anticipates playing in the Rivalry Game. However, he declined additional comment on his status.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham offered some insight when asked about Covey, expressing excitement about watching him play.
“It’s great to have him back,” Whittingham said. “We missed him in the bowl game and we’re just excited for his return.”
Earlier in the week, Whittingham detailed Covey’s situation.
“He’s in a great spot right now. He’s sharp. He’s healthy,” Whittingham said. “Obviously he would have liked to have been running the player-run practices and all that all summer with the guys but just wasn’t able to do that. But we feel he’s made up all the ground that he missed out on due to injury.”
Covey, who is also a two-time all-conference return specialist and a former freshman All-American, has led the Utes in receiving in both of his seasons with the team. He has 103 career catches for 1,156 yards and five touchdowns.