Utah quarterback Cam Rising understands all too well how quickly things can change. 

Throughout the pandemic, Rising worked hard battling for the starting job. Before the season kicked off in late November, he earned it.

But just a little more than a quarter into the truncated 2020 campaign, that all ended abruptly.

Fourteen plays into the season opener against USC at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Rising suffered a season-ending shoulder injury as he attempted to recover a fumble. He finished 3-of-6 for 45 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.

The play on which he was injured is something he won’t ever forget.

“I still remember it to a T. I’ve watched it over and over and seen it so much that I remember it,” Rising said. “I remember going through the pain. … I thought my shoulder was hurting. It was stuck. I had to pull it down on the field. In that moment, I felt some pain but I didn’t think it was too serious until I got to the (medical) tent and they did some tests on me. It kind of showed how bad it was.”

Rising underwent surgery to his throwing shoulder and then began the rehab process. He was unable to participate in spring drills.

Yet the 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore from Ventura, California, is rising up. 

“It’s definitely not an ideal situation. It’s not something I would want to go through again,” Rising said. “It makes you appreciate the game more because of how easy it can be taken away from you. Even when it is going well for you.

“I just think about (that game) and the things I could have done better in that situation. I really can’t wait to make things right and go from there. That’s what I take from that game. It wasn’t a good time but it happened and I’m here now.”

‘I can’t wait to go compete’

Coach Kyle Whittingham has said that Baylor grad transfer Charlie Brewer separated himself from the other QBs on the roster during the spring and that he will compete with Rising for the starter’s role when fall camp opens in August. 

Rising is more than ready for another quarterback battle.

“I can’t wait to go compete during fall camp. I think it’s going to be a fun time,” he said. “I remember feeling the pressure of the competition (last year) and how much it pushed me to go harder. It feels similar to this year. It’s doing the same thing this year. I love competition. It’s something I want each and every day out on the field. I’m looking forward to doing it again.”

Quarterback Cameron Rising and other players circle up as coach Kyle Whittingham calls the team together as the University of Utah football team opens spring camp in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 2, 2020. Rising is battling Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer for the starting job in 2021. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Rising’s shoulder has improved and he said he’s able to make all the throws. 

“It’s feeling great right now. I’ve been throwing with the team. I’ve been able to do everything — throwing it deep, throwing it short,” he said. “Everything feels good right now. I’m working on getting some sidearm angles and stuff like that now. Besides that, it’s going well.”

During spring practices, though he couldn’t participate on the field, he made the most of the situation. 

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“Going from a place where I’m running it to a new place with the new quarterbacks and having to teach them the little nuances in the offense, it kind of opened me up to a new phase of football,” Rising said. “It showed me if I want to coach down the road, that’s what I took from it. It was a fun process, just learning and seeing what to do and what not to do. Just learning that stuff has been beneficial to me.”

Throwing again

Rising said he started throwing in earnest in June. 

“I got to the point where I could throw past 50 yards,” he said. “Then I kept developing it. My shoulder’s getting stronger and stronger. Now I feel like I’m getting back to where I was.”

The task of returning to full strength has been challenging but Rising has gained as much as he could from it.

“It’s a process but I’ve been able to fall in love with that process. So it’s been good. … It was a fun process, just me teaching myself how to throw. I started throwing with a group of injured guys on the team. We’d go out on the field together and I’d have my modified throwing workout and we’d all do it together.” — Cam Rising

“It’s a process but I’ve been able to fall in love with that process,” he said. “So it’s been good. … It was a fun process, just me teaching myself how to throw. I started throwing with a group of injured guys on the team. We’d go out on the field together and I’d have my modified throwing workout and we’d all do it together. It was a fun time. I really enjoyed the process.”

Rising and Brewer have forged a strong relationship since Brewer arrived on campus in January. 

“We’re good friends. We always talk. He’s a great guy. I have a lot of respect for him. We get along well,” Rising said, who added that they’ve helped each other become better quarterbacks.

“With him having spent so much time at Baylor, seeing that side of offense, talking about plays from a different perspective and learning new ideas that he has,” Rising said. “Two brains are better than one. That’s how we’ve been taking it. (Brewer) did a great job (during the spring). He took the offense and ran with it. He made some great plays. He killed it during the spring game. It was fun to watch.”

Utah Utes quarterback Charlie Brewer throws during the Red and White Game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 17, 2021.
Utah Utes quarterback Charlie Brewer throws during the spring game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Brewer, a Baylor transfer, will be competing against Cam Rising for the starting job once fall camps begins in August. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The quarterback room at Utah also features freshmen Peter Costelli, Ja’Quinden Jackson and Bryson Barnes. 

“We have some guys that can really spin the ball in there. It’s pushing us to go harder. It’s making a better quarterback room, which is therefore making it a better position on the team and it’s making the team better,” Rising said. “It makes throwing a lot better when you have good guys around you, doing it with you. I love it.”

‘Not a feeling of relief’

Two people that have helped Rising during the rehab process were freshman wide receiver Connor O’Toole and senior receiver Tyrone Smith.

“(O’Toole) and I have been working, rehabbing his knee at the same time. Seeing him in the training room brought me more energy and reminded me what I’m doing this for,” he said. “We matched up times when we could go out on the field so we’ve been working a lot together. And (Smith) has also been another one that’s helped along this process.”

Almost halfway through spring practices, how does Utah coach Kyle Whittingham assess the quarterback race?

In May, the Utes added Oklahoma transfer wide receiver Theo Howard, whom Rising played against in high school. Rising has been building rapport with Howard and all of the receivers. 

“It’s been going good. We’re throwing and we’re working out together right now,” he said. “We’re getting to know each other a lot better.”

Rising knows how it feels to earn the starting QB job — and he’s hoping to feel that sense of urgency again.

“It’s a great feeling. It’s not a feeling of relief,” he said. “It made me want to go harder in the moment because now that I have the keys to the car, making sure that that car keeps moving forward and that it’s going forward at a fast pace.”

After getting knocked down, Rising is rising up again. And he can’t wait for another shot to compete for Utah’s starting quarterback job.