Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include former Utah cornerback Brian Allen joining the Cleveland Browns active roster.
With an expanded NFL playoff field in 2020 come more Utahns on postseason rosters.
This year, there are seven teams from each division that made the playoffs, up from six in previous years. Not surprisingly, that led to 34 players with Utah ties being on NFL playoff rosters in the 2020 postseason, up from 28 each of the past two years.
NFL wild-card playoffs schedule
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills, 11:05 a.m. MST, TV: CBS
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks, 2:40 p.m., TV: Fox
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team, 6:15 p.m., TV: NBC
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans, 11:05 a.m., TV: ABC, ESPN
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints, 2:40 p.m., TV: CBS, Nick, Amazon Prime
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers, 6:15 p.m., TV: NBC, Telemundo, Peacock
The University of Utah has 15 former players on playoff rosters to lead all Utah colleges, followed by Utah State with six, BYU with five and Weber State with two.
Of those 34, 22 are on active rosters, nine are on practice squads and four on reserve lists. That is the same number of Utah ties on active rosters in last year’s playoffs.
Thirteen played high school football in Utah. That’s led by Highland High, which has two former players in the postseason, while American Fork, Bingham, Brighton, Cedar, Hunter, Judge Memorial, Layton, Lone Peak, Orem, Salem Hills, Weber and Westlake are also represented.
Here’s a look at each of the Utah ties on NFL playoff rosters, by team, beginning with the AFC.
AFC No. 1 seed: Kansas City Chiefs (14-2)
- Daniel Sorensen, S, BYU: Sorensen, who won his first Super Bowl title with Kansas City last season, is having his best year as a pro and will make his sixth straight playoff appearance. He’s started 11 games and put up a career-high 89 tackles and added five pass deflections, three interceptions — he returned one for a touchdown — and two forced fumbles.
- Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State: The second-year pro, who also won a Super Bowl ring with the Chiefs last year as a rookie, has largely played a reserve role. He had two touchdowns and totaled 110 yards (45 rushing, 65 receiving) on Sunday as Kansas City sat many regulars.
AFC No. 2 seed: Buffalo Bills (13-3)
- Jordan Devey, OL, Snow College and American Fork High: Devey has spent the majority of the year on the Bills’ practice squad after signing with the team in September. He’s made the playoffs with three different teams — Devey won a ring with New England.
- Taron Johnson, CB, Weber State: Johnson is back in the playoffs for the second straight year with Buffalo. He’s enjoying his best season as a pro, starting 11 games with 86 tackles, including 62 solo, seven pass deflections and an interception he returned for a score.
- Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah, Snow College and Bingham High: Lotulelei is on COVID-19 reserve after opting out prior to the season. He’s made the postseason in six of his eight NFL seasons.
- Zack Moss, RB, Utah: The rookie third-round pick has been an integral part of the Bills’ offense, finishing the regular season with 481 rushing yards and four touchdowns with a 4.3 per-carry average, while adding 14 receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown.
AFC No. 3 seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
- No Utah ties on roster
AFC No. 4 seed: Tennessee Titans (11-5)
- Nate Orchard, DE, Utah and Highland High: Orchard signed to the Titans’ practice squad on Dec. 19. The sixth-year pro started the year with Washington, spent a month in Houston and is making his playoff debut.
AFC No. 5 seed: Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
- Tyler Huntley, QB, Utah: The rookie undrafted quarterback has spent much of the year on the practice squad, though he’s been active for three games. Huntley played in two games and completed 3 of 5 passes for 15 yards, with 10 carries for 23 yards.
- Ty’Son Williams, RB, BYU: Williams, also an undrafted rookie, has been on the Ravens’ practice squad all year, outside of one game where he made the active roster.
AFC No. 6 seed: Cleveland Browns (11-5)
- Brian Allen, CB, Utah: Allen signed to the Browns’ active roster off Cincinnati’s practice squad one day after the end of the regular season and played in a regular-season game for San Francisco earlier this year.
- Porter Gustin, DE, Salem Hills High: Gustin has been a key defensive reserve for the Browns in his second year. He has 29 tackles on the year and has started three games, and will make his playoff debut.
- JoJo Natson, WR/Ret., Utah State: Natson has been on injured reserve since he tore his ACL during Week 3. He reached the Super Bowl with the Rams two years ago.
- Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU: Takitaki is making his postseason debut in his second NFL season. He took on a larger role with the Browns defense in 2020, starting 12 games and putting up 65 tackles, including 39 solo stops, a sack, a pass deflection and an interception he returned 50 yards for a touchdown.
AFC No. 7 seed: Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
- Julian Blackmon, FS, Utah and Layton High: Blackmon has found success as a rookie, starting 13 games for Indianapolis and making several key plays late in games. During the regular season, the third-round draft pick had 34 tackles, including 27 solo stops, and added six pass deflections, two interceptions and a forced fumble.
- Noah Togiai, TE, Hunter High: The undrafted rookie played in four games for the Colts this year, while also spending several weeks on injured reserve before rejoining the active roster for the regular-season finale.
NFC No. 1 seed: Green Bay Packers (13-3)
- Tipa Galeai, DE, Utah State: The undrafted rookie has spent the majority of the year on the Packers’ practice squad, while he was elevated to the active roster for one week.
- Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: Love, the No. 26 overall pick in the 2020 draft and expected future starter for Green Bay, has spent the year on the active roster, though he has yet to play for the Packers as he sits behind MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers and Tim Boyle on the depth chart.
- Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU: Williams is back in the playoffs for a second straight year with the Packers. This year, he’s rushed for 479 yards and two touchdowns while adding 236 receiving yards and another score in his fourth NFL season.
NFC No. 2 seed: New Orleans Saints (12-4)
- Kaden Elliss, LB, Judge Memorial High: Elliss is making the playoffs with New Orleans for the second straight year, though he missed the postseason as a rookie when he was on IR. This year, he has five tackles as a reserve/special-teamer.
- Chase Hansen, LB, Utah and Lone Peak High: Hansen, an undrafted free agent, has largely been on the practice squad during his second year, though he’s played in two games in 2020.
- Taysom Hill, QB, BYU: Hill has, as usual, done a lot of things for the Saints this season, including starting four games in place of an injured Drew Brees — he led the team to a 3-1 mark in that stretch before Brees came back. Hill has completed 88 of 121 passes for 928 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, while also rushing for 457 yards and eight touchdowns.
- Marcus Williams, FS, Utah: Williams again was an every-game starter for the Saints in his fourth NFL season. This year, he has 59 tackles, including 39 solo, while adding seven pass deflections and three interceptions. New Orleans has made the playoffs every year in his career.
NFC No. 3 seed: Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
- Cody Barton, LB, Utah and Brighton High: Barton is making a second straight appearance in the playoffs with Seattle. This year, the second-year pro has been a key reserve, with 34 tackles and two forced fumbles.
- Marquise Blair, S, Utah: Blair’s second season was cut short early on, as he landed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in Week 2. He had eight tackles and a forced fumble before the season-ending injury.
- Bryan Mone, DT, Highland High: Mone recently came off injured reserve and has played in 10 games for Seattle. He has nine tackles, a half-sack and recorded a safety in reserve work.
- Bobby Wagner, MLB, Utah State: Wagner was named to the Pro Bowl for the seventh time in his career in 2020 and helped the Seahawks improve defensively in the second half of the season. He has 136 tackles this season, including 79 solo, and added three sacks, eight pass deflections and a fumble recovery.
- John Ursua, WR, Cedar High and Westlake High: Ursua, a second-year pro, has spent the year on the practice squad after being a late-round draft selection by the Seahawks in 2019.
NFC No. 4 seed: Washington Football Team (7-9)
- Jared Norris, LB, Utah: Norris signed with Washington this offseason after missing the 2019 season. He’s played in 10 games for the Football Team.
- Alex Smith, QB, Utah: Smith is a near lock as NFL Comeback Player of the Year after returning from a gruesome leg injury in 2018 to lead the Football Team back to the playoffs. He went 5-1 as a starter for Washington during the regular season while throwing for 1,582 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions. He’s led three different teams, including San Francisco and Kansas City, to the playoffs in his career.
NFC No. 5 seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)
- No Utah ties on roster
NFC No. 6 seed: Los Angeles Rams (10-6)
- Terrell Burgess, S, Utah: Burgess, a third-round draft pick, landed on injured reserve in late October with a broken ankle. Before the injury, the rookie played in seven games and had eight tackles and a pass deflection in a reserve role.
- Matt Gay, K, Utah and Orem High: It’s been a whirlwind year for the second-year pro, who was waived by Tampa Bay in September, then spent time on the Indianapolis practice squad before being signed to the Los Angeles active roster on Nov. 17. He’s been clutch for the Rams, making 14 of 16 field goals, with a long of 51 yards, while hitting all 16 extra-point attempts.
- Jonah Williams, DE, Weber State: Williams, an undrafted rookie, has spent the year on the Rams’ practice squad after signing with the team following the 2020 draft.
NFC No. 7 seed: Chicago Bears (8-8)
- Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah: Johnson has been an instant impact player as a rookie, though he’s missed the past three weeks with a shoulder injury. Before that, the second-round draft pick started 13 games for Chicago and had 42 tackles, including 32 solo stops, and 15 pass deflections in helping the Bears return to the postseason.
- Patrick Scales, LS, Utah State and Weber High: Scales has been with Chicago as the team’s long snapper since 2015, and he will be back in the playoffs with the Bears for the first time since 2018.