SALT LAKE CITY — A popular analytical sports website called Pro Football Focus recently asked its 500,000-plus Twitter followers to write a sad football story in three words.
The man behind the entertaining and very pro-University of Utah Twitter account @safetypride shared an entry that all sports fans, even those who prefer blue over red, can agree upon:
“On the sideline!”
Though sports and student-athletes have been sidelined because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that hasn’t silenced or slowed down Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley. The Ute coach’s social media account — which touches on the love he has for his wife and kids, his unwavering devotion to all things U. of U., inspirational thoughts and good-old-fashioned fun — has been a bright spot in a darkened sports world.
If you aren’t a Utah fan, Scalley’s Twitter feed might convince you to become one.
If you are a Utah fan, his posts will make you feel better about being one.
“I love to keep it light,” Scalley said. “Whenever I feel there’s a bunch of negativity out there, I try to focus on what’s positive and represent the University of Utah the right way — what I see is great about the university and our program … and what I feel recruits are going to be interested in.
“And then,” he added, “there’s the human side of it, who you are as a person. That’s just as important because you can tell a lot about a person about what they’re tweeting, what they like, who they are.”
As has been a case since the Highland High alumnus and former Utah Mr. Football grew up as a crimson-clad fan, there’s no guessing required as to what kind of man Scalley is.
He’s a Utah Man, sir.
Every day is a great one to be a Ute as far as Scalley is concerned, and he isn’t shy about letting everybody on Twitter know.
“We’ve got a special program,” said Scalley, who was the 2004 Mountain West co-Defensive Player of the Year. “And I’m all about selling it.”
Speaking of being a Utah Man, the school fight song was the theme of one of his most popular tweets during the coronavirus lockdown.
Scalley didn’t try to sell it by himself, either. He got a little help singing a stirring rendition of “A Utah Man Am I” from dozens of his familiar Ute football friends — from recent Utah stars Jaylon Johnson, Francis Bernard, Julian Blackmon, Terrell Burgess and Bradlee Anae to legendary Utes such as Alex Smith, Jamal Anderson, Ron McBride, Urban Meyer, Norm Chow, George Seifert, Eric Weddle, Luther Elliss, Scott Mitchell, Jordan Gross, Kevin and Andre Dyson, and the impressive list of 60-plus participates goes on and on.
This rendition of the catchy fight song became an instant hit for Ute fans online. It’s been viewed more than 50,000 times and favorited 1,100 times on Twitter alone.
“Might be the greatest thing I have ever seen on Twitter,” lifelong Utah fan Jason Stapley tweeted at Scalley and the jolliest, warmest gang of singers to assemble this side of the Tabernacle Choir. “Go Utes!”
Other fans commented that the song gave them chills, noted that it was a fun trip down memory lane, called it “phenomenal,” “awesome,” “so dope” and “A++++,” and credited the chorus of Utah greats for making their eyes sweat (aka cry).
The way Scalley introduced the fight song was downright hilarious.
“Quarantine week whatever. My beard is getting out of control. I’m going crazy and I need some ball,” Scalley said. “I miss the pads popping. I miss the guys on offense and defense chirping at each other, ‘That was a tackle!’ ‘No, it wasn’t!’”
(What Scalley said next acted as a reminder that he was one of the best-ever safeties in Ute history and coaches the defensive side of the ball.)
“It was a tackle, OK?” Scalley said, jokingly ending the playful dispute he was voicing out between an offensive player and a defensive player. “It was a tackle.”
Of course it was.
Scalley continued with his message to Ute fans.
“I miss being around the boys, and I know you guys were missing it, too. We didn’t have a spring game, we didn’t get to see the young quarterback, the new quarterbacks, the young secondary. I get it. Most of all we didn’t get to hear that sweet rendition from our band of the ‘Utah Man’ fight song. So with a little help from some awesome Utes, we’ve got you taken care of.”
Scalley’s gift to Ute fans came together in quick order earlier this month. Feeling bad about the lack of spring ball and the uncertainty about the 2020 season, he reached out to dozens of players and coaches and asked them to participate. Each person was given a specific line to sing and was asked to exclaim “Go Utes!” to compile for the grand finale.
The 40-year-old coach credited Utah’s creative video staff, including Hannah Bettis and Maddy Hansen, for helping to put it all together after everybody submitted their clips. Amazingly, there was only about a two- to three-day turnaround after Scalley sent out his plea for help and when he received the submissions. He laughs about the massive spreadsheet he used to keep track of which Utes were singing which parts.
“That was awesome. That was fun to do,” Scalley said. “It was neat to see these guys. You heard it. We’re not great singers. … (But) it was great. It definitely got the fans fired up for the most part. To see that type of involvement, you’ve got to have pride for your university.
“Find me another school that’s going to have alumni be willing to do that. Maybe there are, but you don’t see them. Utah football is a family, and that’s what that showed.”
By perusing Scalley’s Twitter feed, you’re shown a lot about him, too. As his profile bio suggests, he’s all about being a “Father, Husband, Son, Follower of Christ (and) Defensive Coordinator for the University of Utah.”
“Every one of us has our own personality, that’s got to come forward however it’s going to come forward. You can’t be fake. Kids who play for you recognize fake really quick. Just be who you are.” —Morgan Scalley
On May 22, he tweeted a photo with his wife — both wearing Ute gear, of course — with an anniversary wish. “Still my greatest recruiting job, ever! 18 years later, and I’m still the luckiest man on earth! Happy Anniversary, baby!!” He also shared photos of his wife surrounded by their three children and one of him and his mom in a thoughtful Mother’s Day tribute with the quote, “May each of us remember this truth; one cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God.”
Scalley shares motivational quotes, such as Robin Sharma’s edict to be extraordinary: “The world needs many more dreamers. Unreasonable souls who fight the urge to be ordinary.” On occasion, he shares spiritual messages, including a resurrection Easter passage from Luke: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”
All the better when his faith and school intersect. Scalley wrote hashtags #HometownHero #GoUtes with a photo of an autobiography by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Russell M. Nelson. The post included a circled clip, which pointed out how President Nelson, East High School’s Class of 1941 valedictorian, “had numerous opportunities for a college education outside of Salt Lake City, but he chose the University of Utah.”
Twitter followers recently learned that one of his favorite songs is Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young” and that given the choice he’d prefer to see a Hollywood remake of “A Swiss Family Robinson” over “Goonies,” “The Breakfast Club” or “Clue.”
Scalley thought of that question thanks to a new quarantine tradition his family has of watching movies every night before the kids go to bed.
“Can you imagine? One of the biggest mistakes Disney made was changing the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse in Disneyland to a Tarzan deal,” said Scalley, who is a big fan of the Robinson clan. “You’ve got pirates, tigers and anacondas (in Swiss Family Robinson). You’ve got coconut bombs. There’s so much in that movie. If you could remake that with the technology we have now, it would be fun, pretty cool.”
Fun and pretty cool also describe Scalleyland on Twitter.
Scalley has recently shared posts from the “Are U A Utah Man?” series, featuring artistic renditions of former players depicted in uniforms from their local high school, Utah and their professional team along with a quote about their feelings for their collegiate alma mater. Nate Orchard’s tribute, for instance, shows him with a mixture of Highland High, Utah and Cleveland Browns uniforms and a quote that reads: “There was nothing better than playing in front of my family, friends and people who had sacrificed so much to get me to this point.”
Scalley’s posts have also lauded student-athletes for succeeding in the classroom, pointed out how well the Utes have done in the NFL draft compared to schools that get more highly-touted players, and even highlighted in great detail what teams would be getting if they drafted his defensive players. With time on his hands during the lockdown, he learned how to create videos on iMovie. That helped him make 10 different scouting report videos leading up to last month’s draft.
The process took a lot of time, but he believes it’s all well worth it — for the players, fans and even for kids who are thinking about playing for Utah in the future.
“Your players need to know you love them. They need to know you’ve got their back. I believe in those kids. I believe in our guys and what they’re all about,” he said. “That was fun to do those videos on the draft-eligible guys because everyone is a great guy.
“Hopefully, your recruits see that, ‘Hey we take care of our guys, promote our guys, love our guys.’ Hopefully that’s what they see — these coaches have their players’ backs and they see that recruiting isn’t just going to end. They’re (the coaches are) going to be there for us throughout our experience.”
After his series of scouting reports, the amicable coach roasted himself and other Ute coaches last month with a hilarious video with some friendly coaching tips — from not turning your back on the action, how coaches are supposed to act when things go right (“when good things happen he’s got to clap as if his baby just won the spelling bee”) and wrong (“bad technique’s got to be met with utter disgust as if someone just sneezed in his soup”), various forms of praying while coaching and not embarrassing yourself by trying to run at full speed.
If an NFL team has posted about one of his former players or somebody has put out interesting stats about the Utes’ success in the Pac-12, the pros and on the field, there’s a good chance Scalley has retweeted it to his followers. He wants to share all the goodness — so players, fans and future Utes get a good picture of the positive highlights of a program he’s been intricately involved with for two decades as a player and coach. He wants to celebrate successes of his student-athletes and, as a bonus, inform recruits that Utah’s program is serious about helping its players graduate and progress toward the NFL when possible.
“I’m just fired up about University of Utah football,” Scalley said.
Not surprisingly if you know him, Scalley gives credit to his boss for what the Ute program has evolved into.
“I sell what’s great about the University of Utah,” he said. “So much of it is Kyle Whittingham. What an unbelievable coach he is.”
Though Whit isn’t exactly active on Twitter, he does encourage his coaches to use their personalities in promoting the program. Scalley said he might not be on social media if it weren’t for coaching, but he’s definitely worth a follow. His feed is full of purpose, passion and pride, not to mention some lighthearted fun.
“Every one of us has our own personality, that’s got to come forward however it’s going to come forward,” Scalley said. “You can’t be fake. Kids who play for you recognize fake really quick. Just be who you are.”
Even if it means singing off-tune with your fellow Utah men every once in a while.