Kelvin York Looks Back At Time As A Ute

Jun 16, 2022, 4:44 PM | Updated: 4:44 pm

SALT LAKE CITY- Kelvin York spent two of his collegiate playing years with the Utes during some of their rougher moments in recent memory. 2012 and 2013 saw back-to-back 5-7 records for Utah as they attempted to find their footing in the Pac-12 and skepticism as to whether they belonged or not.

York’s personal story, much like Utah’s during that time was a mixed bag. When York was fully healthy, he was a brilliant bruiser at running back, but when the injury bug slowed him up, it was hard not to be frustrated.

Fullerton College

The Louisiana native’s college career originally started at Texas Southern, but York quickly realized it wasn’t a good fit. That’s when Fullerton College came calling and York knew in his heart it was the right move to get him where he really wanted to eventually be: USC.

“At first, when I graduated from Dutchtown High I went to Texas Southern for a semester,” York recalled. “I sat out a whole year in football and then I got the call from coach Byrnes at Fullerton. That’s when I decided to go play football at the JuCo level.”

York’s plan worked initially until it didn’t. Not only did USC want him before Utah got in the game, but so did Oregon. Playing for the Trojans was the dream so York immediately jumped on the offer when he got it. Then York tore his meniscus in his last season at Fullerton and suddenly everyone that was so interested in him bailed except the Utes.

“I had nagging injuries here and there and they lingered,” York said. “I’m glad Utah saw something in me and gave me the opportunity after tearing my meniscus. I was also recruited by Oregon and as soon as I mentioned something about my meniscus tear, they shied away. I guess they thought it was the end of the world or something. Some schools shied away, and I don’t know why- at the time when I was verbally committed to USC they were still under the sanctions from the Reggie Bush situation and had limited scholarships. They pulled mine after that. I was recruited by coach Orgeron.”

At Utah

As one can well imagine, going from Louisiana to Southern California to Salt Lake City is a massive adjustment. It was also a massive adjustment accepting the dream of playing for USC (even with sanctions) was gone and that this new, out-of-sorts team in the Pac-12 was where York would be finishing his college career. York did manage to carve a little niche for himself with the Utes and did it while finding some humor as well.

“I had a hard time adjusting when I got to Utah because I would be walking to class and slipping down the sleet and ice,” York said with a chuckle. “It was the snow with Utah.”

On the field,  York found some success as well, specifically against sworn enemy BYU. In 2012 and 2013 Utah may have struggled with their new Pac-12 schedule, but the Utes always seemed to manage figuring out creative ways to beat the Cougars. Perhaps York’s most infamous play and his personal favorite memory came in his final season with the Utes where he absolutely laid into defensive back Mike Hague.

“All the sudden I see this defender and start lowering my shoulder pads and threw a shoulder into him,” York said. “That was about it. I knew contact was coming and just lowered my shoulder. I feel like that thing is going to live on forever besides Quinton Ganther’s hit. They were almost identical plays. It was the same thing. He’s trucking someone and I’m trucking someone. Those plays are going to live on forever, even if Utah doesn’t schedule BYU, people will still be talking about that.”

An Instant “Cult Classic”

Because of York’s hit in the 2013 Rivalry game, he’s become an instant Utes “Cult Classic” player. While not the most famous or stat-heavy player to ever suit up at Utah, fans know about York and appreciate him none-the-less. Just taking a stroll on Twitter proves as much.

“Every time I communicate with somebody on Twitter talking to them, they will always bring up the BYU play,” York said. “Every time they will bring it up and send me videos and clips. I’m also doing giveaways. I didn’t know so many fans love old socks and football cleats. They love that stuff. Gloves- all of my stuff is like ten years old now so like they love it.”

The Glow-Up

Utah is not the same program it was when York was playing. In 2012 and 2013, York recalls the Utes being able to keep up in games until something went wrong and a little adversity was thrown their way.

“It just kind of feels like when Utah first came to the Pac-12- my two years there, we were in those games and we just kind of- as soon as something went bad, we gave up on it,” York said. “It just wasn’t really clicking for us. You look now and Utah is getting four-star recruits, and you can see just the way they play now, if they get down in a game they still feel like they have a chance to win that game. They are in that game.”

York found himself particularly impressed with last year’s team and how they kept things together despite the deaths of two teammates and a disappointingly slow start.

“I watched a little bit of Utah football and I heard when Ty Jordan passed away the year before and then last year Aaron Lowe passed away and I was like ‘what is going on?’,” York said. “For them to just play through that, it showed a lot about Utah and the spirit of Utah.”

Even with playing during a down period for the Utes, York isn’t surprised the ship was eventually turned around. York also isn’t surprised by the expectations being heaped on the program, and actually admitted he thinks some of the projections for the 2022 squad are the next logical step for the program. All they have to do is win and earn style points while doing so.

“Utah has gotten to a level of like getting the high-caliber players and I just feel like there are very high expectations for Utah as well,” York said. “A Rose Bowl is not enough. It’s time for a National Championship to come to Salt Lake City, Utah. I think they are to that point where the Rose Bowl was good, but lets see if we can’t get into the Playoffs now. I think Utah is to the point they need to win out and go to the Playoffs.”

Life In The Present

These days York says he’s just living a normal life working a regular job. Until recently, York was competing in lifting and body-building competitions, but has stepped away from it for the time being though he’s wanting to get back into it soon.

“I’m just working and living a normal life,” York said. “As of right now I’m just working, and I will eventually get back into the gym. Right now, I haven’t really been working out like I’m supposed to, but I’m going to get back in shape.”

Unlike a lot of former athletes, York says he didn’t have a difficult transition to being a “normal person” and is overall happy with his experience playing football. For him, football ending was something he accepted even before his playing days were over due to some of the difficulties with injuries.

“I have some good memories playing football, but it’s always- you’re not going to play football forever,” York said. “I accepted that. I don’t have any doubts or regrets about playing football because life goes on. Some football players need to be playing football, like they don’t know what to do if they aren’t playing football. In my case, I accepted it. I tried and that was it. I can accept the results. I have pretty good memories playing football, but everything good comes to an end.”

While York is looking to the future, he is tentatively planning on revisiting the past this fall to make a trip back to Utah for a game. The game he wants to see? USC as it not only was a part of York’s journey to Utah, but it also falls close to his birthday.

“I want to see maybe the USC game,” York said. “I think it’s October 15th? My birthday is October 13th. It’s been a while since I’ve come. I think the last time I was out here was for my ex and we’ve been broken up four, five years. That’s probably the last time I came to Utah.”

Once A Ute, Always A Ute

York’s time with Utah wasn’t perfect for a lot of reasons, but he wouldn’t change any of it. Learning to trust the people around him and work together through adversity was far more valuable moving forward in life than any stats or accolades. Being a Ute is about buying in and being a part of a family no matter what the personal outcomes are.

“Playing with your brothers every day, playing for one another, and playing through adversity- in life you are going to face adversity, but Utah taught me it’s more about family,” York said. “At the end of the day family is going to be there for you, but football will come and go. At the end of the day, you will always have your family.”



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Kelvin York Looks Back At Time As A Ute