In a little more than one year, former Utah star Britain Covey has gone from the Rose Bowl to the Super Bowl.

It’s the latest chapter of Covey’s improbable football career. 

Last July, the speedy but undersized Timpview High product wasn’t expected to make an NFL roster after signing a contract as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“The whole year, you’re living in fear that you might walk in on any day to learn that you’ve been cut and that they found someone better. He was just grinding it out and showing that he can be reliable. When he gets opportunities, he’s done well in the return game.” — Stephen Covey on his son’s rookie season in the NFL

Next Sunday, Covey will be returning punts for the Eagles as they face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Not only did the 5-foot-8, 172-pound rookie contribute to the Eagles’ NFC championship, he did so during a stressful, and eventful, season off the field. 

Britain and his wife, Leah, are expecting their first child, a boy, in the middle of March. They’re living in downtown Philadelphia, renting an Airbnb. 

Mostly, though, Covey is thankful for this opportunity to play on football’s biggest stage. 

“It’s really cool. I wouldn’t have imagined it. It’s beyond my wildest dreams. It really is amazing. It’s been surreal,” said Covey’s father, Stephen, who attended the Eagles’ victory over the San Francisco 49ers last week, then traveled to Germany on business before he goes to Arizona for the big game. 

Stephen Covey has been there for almost every step of his son’s NFL journey, having attended 15 of Britain’s games all over the country this season. 

“He knows he’s really fortunate — even lucky — to be on a team that is doing so well,” he added. “He’s found a niche of where he can contribute and to have this opportunity is a fortunate thing for him. He’s really excited.”

Stephen M. R. Covey, center, throws a football around with his sons Christian Covey, left, and Britain Covey outside of their home in Provo on Thursday, June 14, 2012. A week from Sunday, Stephen will be in Glendale, Arizona, cheering on Britain, who will be returning punts in Super Bowl LVII for the Philadelphia Eagles. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Naturally, Britain Covey is not taking this chance for granted, knowing that so many players never get to the NFL, and knowing so many NFL players spend years in the league and never get to play on Super Bowl Sunday. 

Who would have guessed that Covey would not only play in the NFL, but also participate in the Super Bowl — in his first season? 

Beating the odds

Despite becoming the all-time punt return leader in Utah history, earning All-America honors and helping lead the Utes to their first Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl appearance, Covey had his doubters when evaluating his prospects at the next level.

As usual.

Throughout his life, Covey has been told he was too small to play football. But he’s proven his critics wrong over and over again since he was in junior high.

After finishing the 2021 season, and heading into the 2022 NFL draft, Covey faced adversity again. He was disappointed after he wasn’t invited to any collegiate All-Star games nor invited to the NFL combine. 

Then he suffered the disappointment of not being drafted. 

“He was hoping because he had such a good pro day that maybe someone would take a chance on him in the sixth or seventh round,” Stephen said. “And he didn’t get drafted. That was disappointing.”

Yet, though he wasn’t picked in the draft, as an undrafted free agent, he was able to pick from multiple offers a place that might fit him best — Philadelphia. 

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“He decided to choose this one because it was a good team and a good opportunity for him,” Stephen said. “He had a chance to make the roster. So he took it. There are no guarantees in any of this. When you’re an undrafted free agent, there is no guarantee.”

That’s why Britain and his wife decided to rent an Airbnb, not knowing what the future held. Covey performed well during rookie camp, organized team activities and mini-camp that when rosters were trimmed before the NFL season kicked off, Covey was one of the last ones to get cut. But the Eagles told him he was one of the hardest cuts they had to make and they placed him on the practice squad. 

Then, just before the season opener at Detroit, Covey was elevated from the practice roster to the active roster. And so, on “Monday Night Football” in his first professional game, there was Covey, returning punts. 

Covey was elevated for Game 2 against Minnesota Vikings and Game 3 against Washington. According to NFL rules, players can be elevated from the practice squad three times in a season. So the Eagles had a decision to make and they opted to keep Covey on the active roster. 

Still, there are no guarantees, especially for an undrafted free agent. 

“The whole year, you’re living in fear that you might walk in on any day to learn that you’ve been cut and that they found someone better,” Stephen said. “He was just grinding it out and showing that he can be reliable. When he gets opportunities, he’s done well in the return game.”

Meanwhile, the Eagles won their first eight games of the season en route to an NFC title. 

In Philadelphia’s 35-10 over Tennessee on Dec. 4, Covey turned in his best performance with six punt returns for 105 yards (17.5 per return) with a long of 27 yards. 

Philadelphia punt returner Britain Covey breaks loose on a punt return against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Philadelphia. Covey finished the day fielding six punts for 105 yards (17.5 per return) with a long of 27 yards. | Matt Rourke, Associated Press

‘You have to park over here’

One of the most amusing anecdotes from the 2022 NFL season came at Covey’s expense. 

Before the home-opener against Minnesota, Covey learned only hours before kickoff that he would be elevated from the practice squad. So he didn’t have a parking pass reserved for Eagles players at Lincoln Financial Field. 

When Covey showed up in his nondescript Toyota, the security guards were skeptical. First, he didn’t have an official parking pass. And they didn’t recognize him. 

“He doesn’t quite look the part, not very big,” Stephen said. “He didn’t want to make a fuss over it and turn it into an incident. They were just doing their jobs. Everyone has to have a pass. He just parked with the fans.” 

As he made his way into the stadium, a few diehard fans recognized him.

“Aren’t you on the team?” they asked. “Aren’t you Covey?”

Covey ended up taking a picture with the fans, which showed up on social media. 

“Then the media got a hold of it. Britain would have just let it lie and not say anything. Some fans recognized him, took a picture and put it out on Twitter,” Stephen said. “The media talked to Brit about it. Brit sure was razzed by his teammates. They were all laughing hysterically. Brit’s a good-natured kid. He just rolled with it.”

That experience may have broken the ice even more with his Eagles teammates. 

“I think it did,” Stephen said. “I think it told those guys, ‘This guy’s real. He’s fun and it’s not about him.’ For Brit, it was really important to defend the security guard. He was just doing his job. It was important to him that nothing happened to the guards. He was not intending for this to be publicized. He rolls with it and laughs at himself.”

‘There was no doubt in my mind he was going to stick’

Back in Utah, Covey’s college coach, Kyle Whittingham, who was busy preparing to lead the Utes to back-to-back Pac-12 titles, was confident about the trajectory of Covey’s career. 

“Well, I don’t know about going to the Super Bowl, but to me, there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to stick (on an NFL roster),” Whittingham told the Deseret News last week. “He’s so smart and he can do so many things. In fact, right after the Eagles signed him, I talked to (former Utah quarterback and current Eagles QB coach) Brian (Johnson) on the phone and said, ‘You guys are going to love this kid. You won’t want to let him go.

“He’s going to end up being a contributor for you this year, most likely on special teams.’ It proved to be prophetic, that conversation I had with Brian.”

Whittingham, who will be attending the Super Bowl, has watched Covey dispel the doubts from observers since Covey was in high school. 

“It speaks to his character and perseverance, without a doubt. But it also speaks to his athletic ability. He is a tremendous athlete. He’s not the biggest guy,” Whittingham said. “That’s obviously what’s worked against him his entire life and it’s why he’s had people doubt him. But he is so quick, athletic, tough, instinctive and smart. His greatest attribute is probably his intelligence. He’s an incredibly smart person as well as a football player. It doesn’t surprise me a bit all he’s accomplishing, and what he has accomplished.”

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, left, and wide receiver Britain Covey, right, look on as Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd celebrates the Utes’ Pac-12 championship victory over Oregon Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Las Vegas. | Chase Stevens Associated Press

Whittingham was one of those that believed that speedy, shifty Covey could play at the highest levels in football. 

“We saw potential in him even back then when he was in high school. We had him in our summer camp here prior to his senior year. He was just as tough as nails,” he said. “He was really impressive during that time we had him on campus.

“That, coupled with his phenomenal high school tape and the great basketball player that he was — I mean, he’s not just a one-trick pony. He’s a great all-around athlete. You go out golfing with him and he’ll shoot par without any problem.”

A family reunion in the desert

This will be the first Super Bowl experience for Britain Covey, as well as his family, who will be attending the game. 

“I’ve never been to a Super Bowl. This will be my first one. I’m thrilled,” Stephen said. “If you would have told me that by next February Britain would be playing in the Super Bowl as the starting punt returner for the Philadelphia Eagles, I just would not have imagined that.”

Covey comes from a large family and getting tickets for everyone that wants to attend the game in Arizona hasn’t been easy. 

“We’re working to try to get my wife and I and Brit’s siblings and spouses. And Leah’s family, her parents and siblings,” Stephen said. “Between the two families, it’s going to take our allotment of tickets. We still have to pay for the tickets, we just don’t have to pay the outrageous scalper prices.

“We still pay outrageous prices but not near as outrageous as what you’d get on the open market. There are more people that want to go than we have access to tickets. A lot more people. Basically, it’s immediate family, siblings, spouses, parents on both sides.”

Attitude of gratitude

During his rookie season, Covey has been surrounded by players like quarterback Jalen Hurts and wide receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. He’s appreciated sitting in team meetings and participating in practices and playing in games with them. 

“They play a bigger role but Brit still plays a role. He’s on the team. He’s a good presence on the team,” Stephen said. “The guys like him and he’s fun and good with people and cares a lot about his teammates. He’s trying to be the best teammate he can be.

“That’s been a contribution that he’s made in addition to being a punt returner — being a good teammate,” he added. “He’ll run with the scout team and go against the first team. He’s waiting for his opportunity to play some at receiver. The Eagles are really stacked at that position. No playing time opportunities at receiver. His opportunities have come at punt returner. You’ve just got to be ready.”

On the season, Covey has returned 33 punts for 308 yards. As a kick returner, Covey returned 10 kicks for 206 yards before Boston Scott took over that role. 

During the playoffs, Covey’s had seven fair catches with no returns so far. 

“You can’t control opportunities but you can control how you approach them — being ready and being reliable,” Stephen said. “He’s contributing in whatever way he can. Honestly, as a parent, to watch this whole thing has been exhilarating and exciting.”

For Britain and Leah, the stress of the lifestyle of a professional athlete, particularly as an undrafted free agent, has weighed on them. 

Philadelphia wide receiver Britain Covey wears a Love for Damar shirt to support Buffalo Bills’ player Damar Hamlin prior to a game Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. The former Utes standout will be fielding punts for the Eagles in the Super Bowl next Sunday. | Rich Schultz, Associated Press

“They don’t know how long they’ll be there. You don’t know if you’re going to make the team and make the roster,” Stephen said. “You could get cut and end up with another team on a practice roster. It’s worked out so far. They couldn’t be more grateful for that. It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster for her. Mostly up. Some downs along the way.”

Stephen added that his son and daughter-in-law enjoy living “right in the city” of Philly. It takes Britain about 10 minutes to get to practice. 

“You sign a long-term lease for an apartment, but what happens if you get cut tomorrow? That’s an indicator of the stressful environment and uncertainty,” Stephen said. “He’s feeling more and more comfortable with every game. He’s always felt comfortable with the team and having opportunities is what he’s grateful for.”

And, of course, Britain and Leah are excited about becoming parents to a baby boy soon. 

Now, it’s Super Bowl Week and the Coveys are appreciative of all those who will be cheering Britain on. 

“We’re aware that a lot of people pull for Brit and care about him. In a sense, he represents the underdog. His story is always defying the odds. It’s kind of inspiring to see that,” Stephen said. “Another thing that he’s grateful for is the support of friends and family and fans and even people that he doesn’t know that are pulling for him. He feels it and he’s grateful for it.

“More than anything,” Stephen adds, “he feels the awareness of his fortunate situation and gratitude for the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl and the people that are supporting him. It means a lot to him and to our family in this unique ride that has been his rookie year. It’s a long season. But it’s been an exhilarating ride. It’s just amazing that it’s culminating in a chance to play in the Super Bowl.” 

Philadelphia Eagles’ Britain Covey walks to practice at the team’s training facility, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles are scheduled to play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023. | Matt Slocum, Associated Press