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‘Blood is thicker than water’: How Britain Covey, and family, negotiate the Utah-BYU rivalry

When the No. 21 Utes visit the Cougars Saturday, Covey will be as healthy as he’s ever been. And he relishes this chance to play at LaVell Edwards Stadium one more time. 

Utah’s Britain Covey (18) heads upfield after fielding a punt during the Utah-BYU football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019.
Utah’s Britain Covey heads upfield after fielding a punt during the Utah-BYU game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

He’s gone from growing up living a short walk away from LaVell Edwards Stadium, and being a stalwart BYU fan, to becoming a star wide receiver and kick return specialist at Utah.

Yes, Britain Covey has an uncommon perspective on the rivalry between the two programs.

As a kid, he imagined himself playing at Edwards Stadium, wearing blue. Two years ago, he got that opportunity, wearing red, though he was limited because he was overcoming an injury.

But when the No. 21 Utes visit the Cougars Saturday (8:15 p.m. MDT, ESPN), Covey is as healthy as he’s ever been. And he relishes this chance to play at Edwards Stadium one more time.

“It’s like home. My dream growing up was to play on that field,” he said. “To get to do it twice in my life is pretty cool.”

Covey’s family members will be there, in the seats where they’ve long had season tickets, wearing red, and cheering for him and the Utes.

But that doesn’t change the way they feel about BYU. Though it’s not always easy being fans of both programs, Covey and his family try to have a healthy approach to the rivalry.

“Growing up, as a little kid, you have this picture-perfect view of the school you support and a one-sided view of fanaticism for the school you support. I’d always say, ‘If you don’t stand up for the BYU fight song, you’re a Utah fan.’ I used to say that at the BYU games.

“I’d say, ‘Who would ever be a Utah fan?’ I didn’t own anything red in my closet until eighth grade,” Covey said. “Then as you get older, you start opening your mind and start seeing that some of the biases you had when you were younger were pretty comical. You start opening your mind.

“Then I started to get to know some of the players at the U. I would go on recruiting visits and I realized they were awesome guys. By my junior year, I had opened my mind. That’s when I started to change my view on the rivalry.”

Covey believes that you don’t have to love one side and hate the other.

“There’s a healthy amount of trash talk and friendly banter that goes on. But I see the line be crossed multiple times on Twitter or in the student section, things like that. Once you get to know the actual players, people always open their minds to things and realize a lot of their perceptions are wrong,” he said. “I do think it’s a more healthy way of looking at the rivalry.

“I wish people were more like that. I still like trash talk and the heated things leading up to the game. But never crossing that line and never being disrespectful. The one thing I’ll never convince people to do — but I enjoy it — is cheering for the opposing school when we’re not playing them.

“I just want the state of Utah to represent well. When it came to me, I cared mostly about having a fair opportunity,” Covey added. “I thought my best chance at getting that was at the U. BYU offered me a scholarship. I never was the kind of recruit to put that out on Twitter so a lot of people don’t know that. But I chose to go to Utah in the end.”

On the day he committed to Utah, his mom had to borrow a Ute shirt from a neighbor because she didn’t own one.

Timpview football players, left to right, Gabe Reid, Devin Kaufusi and Britain Covey take a photo as they sign their Letters of Intent in Provo Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015.
Timpview football players, left to right, Gabe Reid, Devin Kaufusi and Britain Covey take a photo as they sign their Letters of Intent in Provo Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“That shows that blood is thicker than water. Instantly, you had about 50 to 100 Coveys and Hutchings (his mom’s extended family) that were Ute fans. They went out and I’m sure Fanzz made a lot of sales because they bought Utah gear and season tickets,” Covey added. “We’ve totally embraced it. For the rest of my life, I’m going to be a ‘U. boy.’ I love this program. Coach (Kyle) Whittingham needs a statue at some point. We’re all big Utah fans now, which is great. But we’ve kept our love for BYU as well.”

Though his uncle and brother played for BYU, and though he was a diehard Cougar fan as a kid, his family has given him unconditional support during his time at Utah.

“They really are bigger Utah fans than BYU in a lot of ways. It’s a healthy way to look at the rivalry. My brother Christian, to this day, is a BYU fanatic. He loves BYU. But he also loves Utah now. I don’t think he’s ever going to take away that love for BYU out of him,” Covey said. “When I was on my mission, he told me he was going to the BYU-Utah game. He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m wearing red.’ But about two minutes into the game, BYU started making plays and he started standing up and cheering. My mom said that everyone in the stadium was so confused. Here’s this guy wearing a Utah jersey going crazy for Taysom Hill. For the most part, everybody is a Utah fan now.”

For Covey, this game is about competing against good friends, too. Former Utah wide receiver Samson Nacua, for example, transferred from Utah to BYU last spring. He knows other Cougars like Keenan Pili and Chaz Ah You well. Covey is looking forward to seeing them again.

“I think it’s more the fans that get into (the rivalry). The players, there’s nothing but respect. That’s when it gets easier to appreciate the rivalry in a different way, when you start to get to know the players on the other team,” Covey said. “When you’re looking at them as a big entity like ‘BYU football’ or ‘Utah football,’ it’s easy to generalize it. But when start to get to you know people like (Utah linebacker) Devin Lloyd or (BYU tight end) Isaac Rex, you start to get to know them personally and it becomes a lot less fiery — and still competitive.”

With the news that BYU could be joining the Big 12 soon, Covey said he’s heard the talk about it.

“I think that would be great for BYU. As a basketball conference, that would be pretty epic,” he said. “Having teams like Kansas and Baylor in the Marriott Center would be a cool thing. From a football perspective, I think BYU definitely could compete in that conference. If they have that opportunity, I think they should pursue it.”

No matter what happens to the BYU and Utah programs in the future, you can bet Covey will be supporting both schools — just like he has for years.