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‘We are proud of him’: Whittingham, Scalley have plenty of praise for retiring NFL star Eric Weddle

Former Utah Ute calling it a career after 13 seasons in the NFL

University of Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham, right, talks with former University of Utah player Eric Weddle, of the Los Angeles Rams, as they watch former Utah players participate in the University of Utah Pro Day at the Spence Eccles Field House in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 28, 2019.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Before 13 successful seasons in the National Football League, Eric Weddle made quite an impact at the University of Utah. He capped his collegiate career in 2006 with consensus All-America recognition.

The two-time Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year proved to be an extremely versatile weapon for the Utes. Over four seasons, Weddle made 277 tackles, 18 interceptions, 13.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, nine forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries as a defensive back. On offense and special teams, Weddle rushed for 232 yards and six touchdowns, passed for a score and returned 52 punts. He scored 10 touchdowns overall at Utah.

Weddle wound up getting drafted by the San Diego Chargers, 37th overall in 2007. He was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and finished his lengthy career with 1,178 tackles (902 solo), 99 pass deflections, 29 interceptions, 9.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles and five defensive touchdowns in a career that also included stints with the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Rams. He was a two-time first-team All-Pro, earning such recognition in 2011 and 2014.

“We are proud of him. He’s been such a great ambassador for us. Ever since he left the program he’s been supportive and come back in so many different ways,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.

Whittingham added that if that’s a direction Weddle wants to go, he would be very successful in that endeavor. “He would be a great one.”

Whittingham knew Weddle would do well in the NFL. He recruited him out of Alta Loma High School in California, noting Weddle was a special athlete.

“That was obvious. If you watched a minute or two of tape,” Whittingham said. “He came to Utah, had a great career there. He did what was whatever asked of him — played safety and was then moved to corner because we had a need there. He excelled at both positions.”

Los Angeles Rams free safety Eric Weddle carries the American flag onto the field before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Mark J. Terrill, AP

Weddle earned MVP honors in the Emerald Bowl by holding receiver Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech to just two catches for 19 yards — covering him man-to-man the entire game.

“He’s such a cerebral player and so instinctive,” Whittingham said. “We felt he was the type of player that would have a long career and it turns out that’s exactly what happened.”

Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley noted that Weddle is “one competitive dude that didn’t want to have any regrets with his career.” He said the former Ute played until his body couldn’t do it any more.

“Man, what an unbelievable career,” added Scalley, who pointed out the massive response Weddle received on social media following his retirement announcement. He made an impact in the NFL.

“That many years and to be an All-Pro that many years is just remarkable,” Scalley said. “And to be the type of father and husband that he is just says a lot about him.”

Weddle and Scalley were Utah’s starting safeties on the Fiesta Bowl championship team. Scalley isn’t surprised that Weddle wound up exceeding at the next level.

“With his football IQ and his athleticism, I never doubted that he would be successful,” Scalley said. “The longevity of his career is just a credit to him and how he’s taken care of his body and how dedicated he is to his craft.”

Scalley and Weddle have maintained a great friendship over the years.

“I’ve gone out to see him on numerous occasions. He comes in every time he’s in town,” Scalley said. “He reaches out to me, so it’s been a great friendship.”

Like Whittingham, Scalley believes Weddle would make a great coach.

“But right now, it’s time for him to be with his family and enjoy this time off,” Scalley said. “But ultimately I think he would be a very good coach.”