When Utah sophomore Jonah Elliss arrived on campus in 2021, linebackers coach Colton Swan asked him what number he wanted.

Elliss, who was a linebacker at the time, replied that he didn’t care. Swan said No. 83 was available. 

“He understands the whole D line pretty well. Anytime he’s done with his guys, he always looks at film with me up in his office.” — Jonah Elliss

“That would be cool,” Elliss said.

That’s because 30 years ago, Elliss’ dad, Luther, sported No. 83 with the Utes when he was a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference selection from 1992-94. 

Defensive tackle Luther Elliss earned consensus first-team All-America honors in 1994 as a senior and he was also named the WAC Defensive Player of the Year. 

In 1995, the Detroit Lions drafted Elliss in the first round, 20th pick overall. He played for the Lions from 1995 to 2003, recording 324 tackles and 27 quarterback sacks. Elliss ended up playing 10 years in the NFL and was a Pro Bowl selection in 1999 and 2000. 

Jonah Elliss, who is now a defensive end, enjoys carrying on the family tradition. 

“I love it,” he said. “It’s not like I’m living in his shadow or anything. But I’ve taken what he’s giving me and I’m trying to take it further.” 

In two seasons with Utah, Jonah Elliss has played in 25 games, recording 41 tackles, seven tackles for loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He was a Pac-12 honorable mention performer last year.

In January 2022, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham hired Luther Elliss as the defensive tackles coach. 

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Luther Elliss spent the previous five years at the University of Idaho as the defensive line coach. In 2021, his unit ranked 16th in the FCS in sacks per game (2.82) and two Vandals defensive linemen received All-Big Sky honors, including his son, Noah Elliss.

“A dream come true, it is,” Luther Elliss said not long after he was hired at Utah. “It’s something that, to be able to be back at my alma mater, coaching, and also I get to be around my son and coach him a little bit. It’s a huge blessing. I’m grateful for it.”

Jonah is happy to have his dad on the defensive staff. 

“It’s awesome. It brings a new atmosphere to it for me because my (older) brothers got it and now I’m getting it,” he said. “I get that extra film work, I get that extra coaching. He’s always texting me things that he sees in practice. You can tell that he’s always just trying to help me out and making it so I’m the best I can possibly be.”

Luther Elliss sacks Arizona quarterback Dan White. | Tom Smart, Deseret News

While Luther is not Jonah’s position coach, Jonah still receives plenty of coaching from his dad. 

“He understands the whole D line pretty well, Jonah said. “Anytime he’s done with his guys, he always looks at film with me up in his office.” 

Of course, Luther has shown his son some film from when he played at Utah back in the 1990s.

“I’ve seen a little bit,” Jonah said. “He showed me a game against a center that was supposed to be a first-round (pick). After going against my dad, it was crazy watching him knocking him back. He was like, ‘This is what you could do against the tight ends.’ Little things like that I try to apply to my game.”

Not only does his dad help him, so do his brothers, who reach out to him regularly. 

“Right before games, after games, they tell me what they saw and things that I could do better and things I can work out,” Jonah said. “It’s a bunch of little stuff like that. They, and my dad, help me a whole bunch.”

So what’s it like at the Elliss dinner table when they all get together? Luther and Rebecca Elliss have 12 children — seven of whom are adopted.

“Not as much football talk as you would think. We like to mess around,” Jonah said. “We leave football to football and then when we’re with the rest of the family, we talk about how much we love each other.”

Certainly, the Elliss family also loves to see another one of their own wearing No. 83 and wreaking havoc on the football field for the Utes.

Utah Utes wide receiver Bryson Reeves (19) and linebacker Jonah Elliss (83) tackle Stanford Cardinal running back Nathaniel Peat (8) on a punt return in Stanford, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News