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5 reasons for Utahns to watch the 2023 NFL season — and the Utes, Cougars and Aggies are all represented

From Jordan Love to Dalton Kincaid to a BYU reunion in New Orleans, the state of Utah has several compelling reasons to tune into the latest NFL season

SHARE 5 reasons for Utahns to watch the 2023 NFL season — and the Utes, Cougars and Aggies are all represented
Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) runs onto the field during a preseason NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) runs onto the field during a preseason NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks Saturday on Aug. 26, 2023, in Green Bay, Wis.

Matt Ludtke, Associated Press

Whether you cheer for the Utes, the Cougars or the Aggies, there are plenty of compelling reasons to follow the 2023 NFL season.

Yes, the state of Utah doesn’t have its own NFL team, but for college fans looking to support their former players in the pros, it’s shaping up to be another strong year.

Heading into the first week of the NFL season, there are 70 players with Utes ties on NFL rosters — 52 on active rosters, 12 on practice squads and six more on reserve lists.

These are just a few of the top storylines that could define the impact Utah ties have on the 2023 season:


Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love looks to throw during a preseason game Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Green Bay, Wis. The former Utah State star is finally getting his chance to start for the Packers this season.

Mike Roemer, Associated Press

Jordan Love is finally QB1 in Green Bay

For years, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner has carried the mantle as Utah State’s most prominent former Aggie in the NFL.

Jordan Love may soon take that title from the 33-year-old veteran and six-time first-team All-Pro.

The fourth-year Green Bay Packers quarterback is finally getting his chance to be QB1 in an NFL offense, after backing up four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers the past three seasons. With Rodgers traded to the New York Jets, this is Love’s team.

While Love has had opportunities to play during the regular season since he was a first-round draft pick by the Packers in 2020, those chances have been sparse and often in mop-up duty.

Over 10 games — including one start filling in for Rodgers — in the past two seasons, Love has completed 60.2% of his passes for 606 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.

Rodgers had some advice for Love to help him deal with the pressure as he heads into his first season as the offensive leader in Green Bay. 

“The shoes are never as big as you think they are. The mantle is never as heavy as you think it is,” Rodgers told Packers Central. “The crown is heavy of being the leader, but it’s not like living up to these expectations or whatever it might be around who I was or what I did. It’s all about him and what he’s doing and how he’s going to lead, and he’ll be just fine.”

Love’s first test as QB1 will come against a familiar opponent: the NFC North rival Chicago Bears. The Packers will face Chicago at 2:25 p.m. MDT at Soldier Field in Week 1 this Sunday.

“I think I’ve been really impressed with how he’s handled himself,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said about Love two weeks ago, per ESPN. “It dates back to even last preseason. I know we didn’t always have the results, and I sat up here and defended him pretty hard in terms of some of the play, but it’s about the process, and it’s about all the little things that goes into that position: the command that you have in the huddle, the total command of the offense, the operation.”


Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid watches the field during a preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, in New Orleans, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023. The question is, will the former BYU grad assistant and player be watching his team play in this year’s Super Bowl?

Butch Dill, Associated Press

Can Andy Reid and the Chiefs repeat?

Life is good for Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

The former BYU offensive lineman and Cougar graduate assistant has won two Super Bowls in the past four seasons with the Chiefs, and going into the 2023 season, Kansas City is again expected to be one of the NFL’s top Super Bowl contenders.

That’s thanks in no small part to having generational players like quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce leading his team, though the 65-year-old Reid is the heart behind a franchise that has made the playoffs eight straight seasons and reached the Super Bowl three of the past four years.

It’s been nearly 20 years, though, since an NFL team has won back-to-back Super Bowl championships — the New England Patriots won two straight championships to cap the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Can Reid, who won his first Super Bowl title in his 21st season as an NFL head coach, bring that streak to an end?

One trait that works in Reid’s favor is his reputation for having his teams prepared, all while enjoying the process — in August, The Athletic chronicled why the longtime coach is known for running the NFL’s toughest training camp.

“I came in prepared this year,” safety Justin Reid, who’s in his second season with the Chiefs, told The Athletic’s Nate Taylor. “Last year, that first week or two, was just very fast. It’s mentally challenging. The practices are way faster than any of the games ever are.”

Kelce doesn’t know anything else in the NFL world other than working under Reid — Kansas City drafted the tight end in Reid’s first year with the team. The four-time first-team All-Pro tight end credits Reid with keeping the Chiefs disciplined, a key factor that’s helped Kansas City win seven straight AFC West titles.

“It’s not an easy thing to get a bunch of grown men to stay disciplined,” Kelce told Taylor. “The welcome-to-the-league moment with coach Reid was just that eyebrow he gives you, man. You’re like, ‘All right, I better pick it up.’”

Following his most recent Super Bowl win in February, Reid indicated he isn’t ready to retire any time soon.

“I look in the mirror and I’m old. My heart, though, is young. I still enjoy doing what I’m doing,” Reid said. “I’m good with what I’m doing right now.”


Buffalo Bills tight end Dalton Kincaid walks off the field following a preseason game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Chicago. The former Utah Utes mainstay was the 25th overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft.

Kamil Krzaczynski, Associated Press

Will Dalton Kincaid become a star as a rookie?

Almost since the moment the Buffalo Bills drafted former Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid, he has become a popular man in New York.

The Bills took Kincaid with the 25th overall pick in April’s NFL draft — he was the first tight end to come off the board in a promising draft class at that position that included Iowa’s Sam LaPorta, Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer and Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave, among others.

Kincaid will be catching passes from one of the game’s top young quarterbacks, two-time Pro Bowler Josh Allen, and his QB likes how Kincaid fits in with the Bills offense.

“The kid is very smart,” Allen told Bills contributing writer Patrick Warren. “He doesn’t play like a rookie. He’s instinctive, he understands our offense very well. His body control is fantastic. … We’re not gonna be afraid to play him right away.”

The expectation is that Buffalo will pair Kincaid with veteran tight end Dawson Knox in a heavy amount of 12 personnel looks and that the rookie could be the team’s third-leading pass catcher behind wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis.

Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson made a bold prediction on Kincaid, saying he believes that the former Utes star could become just the third rookie tight end with 1,000 receiving yards his first year in the league.

“Rookie tight ends typically don’t have huge production right out of the gate, but a big part of that is the blocking responsibility that limits their use,” Monson wrote. “With Dawson Knox already in place, the Bills have the rare luxury of being able to deploy Dalton Kincaid with very little in-line blocking responsibility, essentially turning him loose as a big-slot weapon.”


Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua celebrates his touchdown catch during a preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. The former BYU Cougars star emerged as one of the team’s more promising wideouts during preseason play.

Ryan Sun, Associated Press

There are several rookies with Utah ties worth watching

Kincaid isn’t the only rookie with Utah ties who could play a significant role this season. 

In Los Angeles, Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua — a former BYU and Orem High star who was a fifth-round selection in April’s NFL draft — has emerged as one of the team’s more promising wideouts.

Rams coach Sean McVay recently mentioned Nacua among a list of rookies that could be an “immediate contributor” for the team this season. He showed off that ability in his first preseason game, when Nacua caught three passes for 32 yards and a touchdown.

“You can see he’s physical, tough, no fear,” McVay told reporters after the game. “He’s a guy that has great, aggressive hands.” 

In Atlanta, former Utah lockdown cornerback Clark Phillips III was a Day 3 draft pick, like Nacua, going in the fourth round to the Falcons.

The 5-foot-10, 183-pound corner is listed as the team’s backup nickel back heading into Atlanta’s Week 1 matchup with the Carolina Panthers.

Part of Phillips’ appeal to Falcons brass was his fearlessness and drive to win on every play.

“The more games you watched of Clark, it didn’t matter who he was going against, even last year going against Drake London at USC, this guy will come downhill,” Falcons national scout Michael Ross told team writer Tori McElhaney. “(Phillips) is going to bring it. He didn’t shy away from anybody.”


Atlanta Falcons cornerback Clark Phillips III (34) works during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Atlanta. The former Utes cornerback has already established a reputation for his fearless play.

Danny Karnik, Associated Press

There are also a pair of undrafted rookies who made initial 53-man rosters that have Utah ties. Running back Chris Brooks and linebacker Mohamoud Diabate were graduate transfers last year at BYU and Utah, respectively.

Now, Brooks has made his way onto the active roster with the Miami Dolphins, while Diabate earned his spot on the 53-man with the Cleveland Browns.

Because of injuries to other players at their positions, there is a possibility the two could earn snaps early in the year.


New Orleans Saints running back Jamaal Williams warms up before an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in New Orleans, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023. Williams will be reuniting with his former BYU teammate and friend Taysom Hill in New Orleans.

Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

Taysom and Jamaal reunited in New Orleans

Two former BYU teammates — running back Jamaal Williams and quarterback Taysom Hill — are sharing a backfield for the second time in the NFL, though the last time was just for a brief offseason period when the two were rookies in Green Bay. 

Hill, waived by the Packers during final cuts as a rookie, was claimed off waivers by New Orleans and has become a do-it-all icon with the Saints.

Williams is on his third NFL team since entering the league in 2017. After four years in Green Bay, he played the past two seasons in Detroit and had his first 1,000-yard rushing yard season with the Lions last year, while also leading the league with 17 rushing touchdowns.

Can the two former Cougars develop a little magic together in New Orleans? Williams is BYU’s all-time leading rusher, Hill the program’s all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks.

“Taysom, I can’t wait to mess with him. It’s been too long now,” Williams told reporters during his Saints introductory press conference. “I can’t wait to mess with him. Don’t worry, you’ll see it.”

Williams has been a fan favorite wherever he goes, and Hill is looking forward to having that presence around him again.

“My favorite thing about being Jamaal’s teammate is the energy and the emotion that he plays with,” Hill told the Deseret News this summer. “He always adds to the energy on the field in a positive way. That’s his crowning quality. He adds energy everywhere he goes.”


New Orleans Saints tight end Taysom Hill in action during preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs in New Orleans, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023.

Gerald Herbert, Associated Press