Throughout his life, former Utah star Britain Covey has been discounted because of his diminutive stature.
But he’s always thrived on proving people wrong.
Now, Covey is looking to take his skills to the next level as the NFL draft kicks off Thursday.
Once again, there are those that might doubt him because of his size — and because of his age. The 5-foot-8, 170-pounder from Provo turned 25 in April.
Covey joined the Utes as a freshman in 2015, then served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chile. He returned and ended up being Utah’s all-time leader in punt return yardage.
During his career, Covey made spectacular plays, including a game-changing punt return for a touchdown against Oregon in November, and an electrifying 97-yard kickoff return in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State in January. He also caught 184 passes for 2,011 yards and 11 touchdowns as a receiver at Utah.
On pro day in March, Covey ran an impressive 4.43 in the 40-yard dash.
“More than anything, as a player, you want to show what makes you unique. There are lots of different versions of similar players. I feel like I’m a unique type of player,” Covey said during pro day. “There are always concerns about size. But as long as you bring something unique to the table, I think those concerns fade away. You don’t need to be 6-foot-1 as a punt returner or slot receiver. You just don’t. I’m just trying to show what makes me unique. I hope I got to do that.”
Covey possesses intangible qualities that he hopes will translate from college to the NFL.
“You can’t teach speed. More than that, you can’t teach playmaking ability. You can’t teach running with the ball or vision,” he said. “Those are certain things that you develop at a young age and it’s really hard to develop them later on. You can develop good routes, catching ability. But the ability to run with the ball in an open field, it’s developed from a young age.”
While some players try to become kick return specialists in the NFL to increase their value to teams, Covey already has plenty of experience returning punts and kickoffs.
“It’s a lot more technical than people think. It’s a lot harder. I have 10 different things that run through my mind before a return,” he said. “The more you can do is better. That’s why everyone wants to do it. I think people go back there to catch a punt and they realize that it’s probably, aside from quarterback, the hardest thing in football. Now put 250-pound guys running at you and do it.”
Covey aimed to show NFL teams his all-around ability on pro day. He believes he has a lot to offer as a wide receiver.
“I hope they saw what they were looking for. I’m excited. I try to think of myself as pretty self-aware of what my role is. As a return man, that’s the main thing I’ll go to,” he said. “I’m really excited to surprise some people at the slot (receiver position). I even felt like my routes today surprised some people by how crisp they are and how natural I feel at receiver. I would love to go in as a return man and then be one of the top four receivers on a team.”
On pro day, Covey wore custom-made cleats that allowed him to pay homage to six “undersized heroes” that enjoyed successful NFL careers.
Those six players — former Ute Steve Smith Jr., NFL free agents Cole Beasley and Tyrann Mathieu, former New England Patriots star Julian Edelman, former BYU and NFL running back Vai Sikahema and former NFL running back/return specialist Darren Sproles.
The cleats also sported a No. 22, in tribute to Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe, the two Ute teammates who died between December 2020 and September 2021.
Covey said the cleats were designed in collaboration with artist Dustin Mathews and they featured a quote: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Those cleats represent a special meaning for the undersized and underrated Covey, who is the grandson of Stephen R. Covey, the author of the bestselling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
“It’s been the story of my life. All those six guys on my shoes, my so-called undersized heroes, have been the story of all of our lives. I had a motto for my college career and it was a quote from my grandpa,” he said. “It said, ‘Build on your strengths, organize to make weaknesses become irrelevant.’ That’s the thing. One of my weaknesses, technically, would be blocking a linebacker.
“But I’m so quick that I can run off a linebacker and he’s so worried about me getting open that it’s basically the same thing as blocking him. Building on your strengths and organizing to make weaknesses become irrelevant has kind of fueled me. No combine invite, especially when some guys that got the invite, I had much better numbers than they did. It fuels the fire.”