Former Utah star Britain Covey eager to make his mark as a rookie with the Philadelphia Eagles
Before Covey reported to the Eagles’ minicamp, he addressed a variety of subjects with the Deseret News.
For former Utah wide receiver and kick return extraordinaire Britain Covey, it’s almost like starting over again.
An undrafted free agent, Covey reported to the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday and is participating in training camp, which kicked off Tuesday.
“Oh, absolutely. It definitely feels like being a freshman again, which is something that I like,” Covey told the Deseret News last week. “I’ve always had a mentality of learning from guys that are older than you; just take wisdom from everybody that you can.”
Throughout his life, the 5-foot-8 Covey has heard the disparaging comments, and doubts, that he’s too small to be successful in football. But he proved the doubters wrong at Timpview High and later at Utah.
Has it sunk in yet for him — that he is an NFL player?
“I think it will sink in the first time we put the pads on,” Covey said. “But I’ve had a couple of moments already at (organized team practice activities). The first time I got hit after I had a ball that was thrown a little high. I got hit by three guys at the same time. That was one of those moments where it sunk in a little bit. I’m sure I’ll have a couple of those wake-up moments once I get there.”
Signing an NFL contract was thrilling for Covey, who has exceeded expectations at every level.
“It’s something that, even growing up, I dreamed more of playing college football than I did the NFL, just because I didn’t know anyone that played in the NFL,” he said. “I met a couple of guys like (former BYU stars that played for the Philadelphia Eagles) Vai Sikahema and Chad Lewis, and some other guys. But I didn’t know anyone really. So I dreamed of playing college football. It’s such a unique opportunity.”
In his final game as a Ute, Covey, the all-time leader in punt return yardage in Utah program history, had an electrifying kickoff return for a touchdown against Ohio State in a narrow loss to the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl.
After last April’s NFL draft, Covey attended rookie minicamp and his Rose Bowl TD run was a topic of conversation.
“That’s where most people knew me from — or the punt return against Oregon,” he said. “‘Pac-12 After Dark’ is what people watch on the East Coast late at night. I had quite a few guys who knew who I was. It’s funny for a 25-year-old, a rookie and married. Not the norm.”
During the summer, Covey and his wife, Leah, took a trip to Europe, visiting Austria (“which is my favorite country in Europe”), Switzerland, France and Italy.
Now, he’s in full football mode as he looks to earn a roster spot with the Eagles.
Covey talked with the Deseret News about a variety of topics pertaining to his NFL career, the 2022 Utah football season, and his future after his playing days.
He also discussed his experiences this summer working out with former BYU players in Provo like Zach Wilson, now the starting quarterback for the New York Jets, as well as the nickname Covey’s Philadelphia teammates have bestowed upon him.
Deseret News: What was your experience like at rookie minicamp?
Britain Covey: Rookie minicamp was a great transition period for me. I was going against college guys, basically. I feel like I’ve played against enough great competition throughout my career that I felt really confident going into it. I did well. It was a good transition for when OTAs came and all of the vets showed up. Everything’s been smooth for me. We haven’t done any (kick) return stuff yet. It’s been great because I’ve been able to show what I can do strictly as a receiver and then I’m excited to show that extra element of my game once camp hits. It was good because I think I surprised a lot of people with how fluid I was as a receiver. I think that’s helped me out.
DN: Are you ready for the typical, good-natured rookie hazing that happens in the NFL?
BC: (Laughing) I’m gearing up for it. I know I’m going to have to sing at a talent show. I’m going to have to stock the receivers’ room with treats. There’s just that rite of passage, and I love it. I just hope they don’t make me pay for a big dinner. I know they will but I hope they’re having a few other receivers pay for it so we can split the check.
DN: What’s it been learning the Eagles’ playbook? How different is it from the playbook you had at Utah?
BC: I played for three different offensive coordinators at the U. Three different styles. I would say that the NFL is most similar to how (offensive coordinator Andy) Ludwig runs his offense, just in terms of the vocabulary, the cadence. … That’s been great because I feel like it’s been a lot easier for me than a lot of guys who have come from offenses in college where they run strictly signals from the sideline and no-huddle. I’ve been more in an NFL-style for the last couple of years. So that’s been a smooth transition for me.
DN: Vai Sikahema was a special teams star in Philadelphia decades ago. Have you been able to connect with him?
BC: He texted me the moment that I signed. Vai is such a good person. He definitely is looking out for me and I’ll be in contact with him over the next couple of months. They love Vai there (in Philadelphia). I think it’s going to be pretty fun to try to carry on his legacy a little bit.
DN: Which former Utes have helped you the most during your transition to the NFL?
BC: (Buffalo Bills running back) Zack Moss. We’re really close and he’s talked me through a lot of things. Zack’s been great; Tim Patrick, Garett Bolles, Chase Hansen, all those guys. It’s such a cool brotherhood once you get to that level. Everyone looks out for one another. Hopefully I carry on that tradition. You name the player that’s come through the U. and I’ve had some contact with them. (Baltimore Ravens quarterback) Tyler Huntley, giving me advice, wishing me the best, stuff like that.
DN: Former Utah quarterback Brian Johnson is now the quarterbacks coach for the Eagles. How well did you know him before you signed with Philadelphia?
BC: I didn’t know him very well. It’s funny, because I got an 801 number calling me during the draft. I thought, “Which one of my idiot friends is calling me during the draft?” It was him. He’s got an 801 number. He’s such a cool guy. He’s so smart. You can tell he’s been a part of some amazing systems. He has some great knowledge. He definitely looks out for me. During OTAs, he could tell when I was having a day when I was struggling. Or I had questions. He’d take me aside, under his wing. I really appreciated that for him. It’s been fun. I think it’s fun for him to have a fellow Ute as well.
DN: How confident are you that you’ll be able to make the Eagles’ roster?
BC: My answer to that question right now is, ask me in two weeks. I think it’s going to be a challenge to make (the 53-man roster). I think it’s kind of this mental state you have to get in where you’re very confident in your abilities but you’re also very aware of the situation and you’re very honest with yourself about what needs to happen in order for you to make it. There are a couple of guys ahead of me that are being paid quite a lot more. I’m going to have to outperform them if I’m going to have a shot. Because if we’re neck-and-neck or even if I’m just a little bit better, they’ll keep them.
So you’re not going to cut someone that’s making $5 million and still have to pay them (that money). There are quite a few things that are working against me as a rookie and I understand that. But it doesn’t make me doubt my abilities at all. That’s what I can focus on in my circle of control and my circle of influence. Hopefully that grows as I continue to play well and try to not get too upset with things. I know I’m going to have a couple days where I feel like I don’t get any reps. I’m mentally preparing for that. There will be days where I don’t play well and I get nervous about being cut. I’m visualizing both the good and the bad, if that makes sense.
DN: How important is it for you to make an impression with the Eagles as a receiver, not just as a return man?
BC: It’s important because maybe 15 years ago you could, but you’ll never make the team as just a return man these days. You’ve got to be a receiver first, a return man second. That’s why I was excited to do OTAs, knowing we wouldn’t do very much special teams. I did really well. At least I feel like I did. I got some nice compliments from the quarterbacks and the coaches. I was getting reps with the ones and the twos because A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are gone for a practice and they need someone to step up.
I’ve always prided myself on my knowledge of the game. I knew every position so I jumped in there. Whether it’s inside receiver or outside receiver, it doesn’t matter. A couple of tight ends went down so we started going four-receiver sets. I jump in there at the fourth receiver/tight end position. Just making myself available. For a lot of coaches that didn’t know me very much coming out of college, and probably expected me to just be a return man, I think I surprised them a little bit, which was a good thing.
DN: As you mentioned, you’re not a normal NFL rookie because of your age and background, such as serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chile. Do you get questions about your mission from your new teammates?
BC: Totally. Just like college. It’s been fun to share what’s unique about me and what’s unique about them. That’s what I love about football, honestly. You find strength in your differences and unique backgrounds. It’s really cool. A couple of guys nicknamed me “The Mormon Missile,” so we’ll see if that carries on.
DN: What have you been doing to prepare for minicamp this summer?
BC: The last three weeks I’ve been working a lot, mainly receiver-specific stuff. I’ve been going down to BYU to catch punts from (BYU punter) Ryan Rehkow. He’s got an NFL leg. When Zach Wilson’s been in town I’ve been throwing with him. And Cam Rising. It’s fun. I’ve got great relationships with players from BYU and obviously players at Utah. I’ve been back and forth from Provo to Salt Lake, wherever I can train. (Former Utah and BYU receiver) Samson Nacua has been one of my best friends since high school. We’ve been working together a little bit. It’s nice. We’ve got a good little community in this state where I think everybody wants everybody to succeed.
DN: You started as a freshman at Utah in 2015. How strange is it not to be playing for the Utes anymore? And how do you think Utah will perform this season?
BC: It is weird. I already miss it. I went up to the facility (last week) and threw with all the receivers. I went over some things they teach us in the NFL. I feel like it’s such a family up there. I’m going to be close to them my whole life. That team is so special to me. I go up there whenever I can.
Maybe this is the homer in me, but I feel very confident about them this year, especially if Cam stays healthy. They have another year in coach Ludwig’s system, where they can hit the ground running in camp and not have to go over every little thing. I think they’re really going to excel. I think Devaughn Vele’s going to have a big year. You’re going to have a lot of different weapons break out this year in the running game, not just Tavion (Thomas). I think Jaylen Dixon is going to have a big year. I’m always hesitant to say this in front of people because they say I’m biased, but I feel very confident about this year’s team.
DN: Does coaching still interest you when your playing career ends?
BC: It’s one of those things where if you don’t try it in your life, you’ll always wonder and regret. I definitely need to try it. I know I do. I love that age group — 18-24. I think kids are looking for direction in their lives. There’s so much you can teach them. There’s so much I was taught by coaches. I would love to coach college football. And I love the game. I’m one of the most competitive people you’ll ever meet. My wife and I can hardly play tennis together without being (competitive), you know. Even in golf, I just can’t help it. I feel like it’s right up my alley. I would love to.