Facebook Twitter

Britain Covey found a good fit with the Philadelphia Eagles. Will his first season end with a ring?

The former Utah receiver and return specialist has carved out a role in his rookie season after going undrafted, though an injury clouds his availability for the Super Bowl

SHARE Britain Covey found a good fit with the Philadelphia Eagles. Will his first season end with a ring?
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Britain Covey waits to take the field to work out prior to an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the New York Giants, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Britain Covey waits to take the field to work out prior to an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the New York Giants, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia. Covey, the former Utah and Timpview High star, is one win away from a Super Bowl ring to cap his rookie season with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Matt Slocum, Associated Press

PHOENIX — Britain Covey considers himself “very blessed” to be on a path that took him to the Rose Bowl last year and the Super Bowl this season.

He’s also hoping for a better ending this time — specifically, a victory.

When Covey helped the University of Utah win the Pac-12 championship and make its Rose Bowl appearance during the 2021 season, Ohio State spoiled the party a bit by rallying to beat the Utes.

Now, Covey is with the Philadelphia Eagles, who will play in Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs (4:30 p.m. MST at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona).

“Those are two of the greatest football games of all time. I feel very blessed and happy about that,” Covey told the Deseret News on Wednesday during Super Bowl festivities.

“We lost the Rose Bowl sadly, so I am hoping to kinda get that bad taste out of my mouth with a Super Bowl victory.” 

Covey, who has been Philadelphia’s primary punt returner this season, landed on the NFL’s injury report late during Super Bowl week with a hamstring injury, making him officially questionable for Sunday’s game. He was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday.

While making the jump from college to the pros could seem intimidating, Covey’s past — combined with a trust and confidence in his present situation — has helped the Utah native exude assuredness about his road ahead.


Utah wide receiver Britain Covey (18) is congratulated after scoring against Ohio State in the 108th Rose Bowl.

Utah wide receiver Britain Covey (18) is congratulated after scoring against Ohio State in the 108th Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. One year after playing in the Rose Bowl, Covey is headed to the Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

How Utah football prepared Britain Covey for the NFL

The 5-foot-8, 173-pound Covey comes from a school that’s built a reputation under head coach Kyle Whittingham of churning out NFL-level talent.

As one of the Utes’ star receivers over a college career that spanned from 2015-2021, Covey said facing a bevy of talented secondary players helped prepare him for what he would face in the pros.

“I think a lot of it starts with practice habits,” he said. “You think about some of the guys I was able to go (against) day in and day out at Utah — Jaylon Johnson, Javelin Guidry, Julian Blackmon, Marcus Williams, Chase Hansen, Terrell Burgess — all guys that have been in the league for years and really excelled.

“That really helped me not be shocked when I came to the league, to play against those guys.”

“It’s almost like, you hate to lose more than you love to win because winning is the expectation. That’s why it was a good fit for me to come to Philly, because that’s kind of the Philly way.” — Britain Covey

The culture that Whittingham has built at Utah — and being a part of it for so long — also helped, Covey said. 

The Utes are experiencing the most successful stretch in program history: they are two-time defending Pac-12 champions, have seen 31 former players selected in the NFL draft the past 10 years and have finished in the Top 25 three of the past four seasons (and six of the past nine). 

“It’s almost like, you hate to lose more than you love to win because winning is the expectation,” he said.

“That’s why it was a good fit for me to come to Philly, because that’s kind of the Philly way.”


Why Philadelphia is such a good fit

In Philadelphia, Covey has found a similar culture. The Eagles, who won the franchise’s first Super Bowl title five years ago, have won 16 division titles, including five since 2010.

This season, Philadelphia went 14-3 and earned the No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC.

Plus, Covey has a familiar face in Philadelphia: A rising star in the NFL coaching world in Eagles quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson.

Johnson is the winningest quarterback in Utes program history and led the team to victory in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. He has since carved out a successful coaching career (including a four-year stint at Utah) and “is a legend to everyone, and especially those who grew up in Utah,” Covey said.

“It’s great having Britain around. Obviously he had a fantastic career at Utah. For him to come in as a rookie and have an instant impact in the return game has been really cool,” Johnson told the Deseret News.

Covey, too, appreciates the friendship the two Utes are developing in Philadelphia.

“We have a fun relationship,” he said. “It’s kind of like an older brother (type of) relationship because he definitely goes out of his way to care about me and make sure I am doing alright. I’m sure we’ll be friends for a long time.”

Johnson said he did a bit of coaxing to make sure Covey, who went undrafted in last April’s NFL draft, ended up in Philadelphia.

“I had to put on my old recruiting hat. Once we got him here, got him in rookie minicamp, he made so many plays that weekend. It was really good to see,” Johnson said.

For Covey, it’s been an ideal fit.

“To be on the Utes — such a great program that is on the rise — and then to go to one of the best organizations in the NFL in the Philadelphia Eagles, I just feel very lucky,” Covey said.


Overcoming the doubters

Covey’s rookie season has been a test of his mental strength, he admits.

“Utah helped me prepare for the NFL. There’s definitely still a big jump,” he said.

“There are crazy high expectations, even for rookies … of where you should be and so you have to give yourself a little bit of grace. I’d say the first 4-6 games of the year, I was pretty wide-eyed, just learning and understanding the speed of the game, the tempo, the physicality.”

As an undersized athlete who played quarterback (and excelled) at Timpview High, the path of having to prove himself is one he’s familiar with.

merlin_1482727.jpg

Timpview quarterback Britain Covey looks to pass as Timpview and Lone Peak play Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013. Covey went on to become a star wide receiver and return specialist at Utah and is now one win away from earning a Super Bowl win with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“I knew not being drafted was a big possibility. It’s just the reality for me my whole life — not getting many scholarship offers, people doubting whether I could play quarterback in high school,” he said. 

“It’s just the reality of being my size and skill set, so I wasn’t scared of that possibility. So when it happened, I just said, I’m going to have to scratch and claw my way in football, just like I’ve always done.”

There are several well-known details of Covey’s early pro life — in addition to going undrafted, he was waived during final cuts, then brought back on the Eagles’ practice squad and eventually signed to the active roster. 

“Stability is a foreign word. Hopefully one day I’ll feel that. But I love being here.” — Britain Covey

“Stability is a foreign word in the NFL. If you’re a rookie or a practice squad guy or whatever, the NFL is not as glamorous as the vast majority of people think it is,” he said. “Credit to my wife (Leah) for putting up with that — the lack of stability and thinking you can get cut at any point, even when you’re on the active roster.”

The ups and downs of the rookie learning curve have come as he and Leah are preparing for the birth of their first child, a boy, in March. 

Still, there was a plan — and the opportunity was there, even amidst the stress.

“I knew that that was kinda part of the plan from the beginning of the season that I would get signed to the active roster. That’s a big reason why they made the moves they did to keep me,” Covey said. 

“I just knew that every game was important. You kinda had to get your head in the right space because you didn’t want to be motivated by fear of failure. That’s been a challenge for me all year, just keeping that confidence that I’ve always had. I feel like I’ve learned and grown a lot.

“Stability is a foreign word. Hopefully one day I’ll feel that. But I love being here.”


How Britain Covey views his own development in Year 1

Covey’s primary impact as a first-year professional has been with the special teams unit. 

That part isn’t foreign to him — he was an accomplished, often feared punt and kick returner during his days at Utah. During the Rose Bowl, Covey returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to give the Utes a 28-14 lead.

During the regular season with the Eagles, he had 33 punt returns with a 9.3 yards-per-return average. His best game came in Week 13 against Tennessee, when had six punt returns for 105 yards, or 17.5 per pop.

In the postseason, he has yet to return a punt and has made seven fair catches.

“I think adaptability is a huge component of a great athlete and I feel like I’ve been able to learn what is effective. Since Week 6, I think, our unit has been top three in the league in punt returns,” he said. “You just do what you can, and you learn.”

AP22339701476921.jpg

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Britain Covey (18) runs past Tennessee Titans running back Dontrell Hilliard during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Philadelphia. Covey’s best game of his rookie season came against the Titans, when he had six punt returns for 105 yards.

Matt Rourke, Associated Press

Covey has yet to break into a wide receiver rotation, though that’s understandable considering the Eagles have star receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith leading that personnel group.

“As a receiver, we have been the healthiest group in the NFL, which has been great for us. I haven’t gotten a chance to play, which kinda sucks for me, but also, I get to learn from A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith,” Covey said. “Where else can you say you have that opportunity? I feel very lucky.”

Both Brown and Smith have been among the NFL’s best at the position this season. Brown, a Pro Bowler, caught 88 passes for 1,496 yards and 11 touchdowns. Smith grabbed a team-high 95 catches for 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns.

Being in the same receiver room gave Covey the opportunity to learn from his veteran teammates.

More than anything, you watch their processes — how they go about things, the little drills they do, things that no one sees, things that no one is going to write about. That’s what I love to watch about them. That’s a lesson I’ll take out of football as well,” he said.


AP23033697484388.jpg

Workers prepare for the NFL Super Bowl LVII football game outside State Farm Stadium, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz.

Matt York, Associated Press

The mindset going into the Super Bowl

Covey said he’s tried to keep the outside noise from becoming a distraction as he goes through a rookie campaign that will end with a Super Bowl, and soon, the chance to be a first-time father.

Even though the Super Bowl is one of those memorable experiences, he’s determined to stay focused on what’s important — the task at hand. 

“In a way, I’ve kind of had tunnel vision this whole year, and even this week,” he said. 

“At the end of the day, you’re just playing football against another team. As you look back, you can kind of reminisce.”