UTAH UTES

Eric Weddle: We Had A Hand In It, These Guys Have Taken It Next Level

Sep 12, 2022, 3:06 PM
Eric Weddle - Utah Utes Football...
University of Utah's Eric Weddle in action against University of Tulsa during the Armed Forces Bowl played at Amon Carter Stadium in Ft Worth Texas on December 23, 2006. Utah won the game 25-13. (Photo by L. Scott Wambsganss/Getty Images)
(Photo by L. Scott Wambsganss/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY- Former Utah safety and recent Super Bowl Champion Eric Weddle was in Utah last weekend for his Crimson Club Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Weddle has always been a big proponent of the program, but these days his pride in where the Utes have gone and what they’ve accomplished since his playing days is through the roof, noting it really hit him sitting in The Swamp the weekend before.

 

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“I’m sitting there four rows back on the 40-yard line hanging with some Utah fans and it just hit me, like, I’m in The Swamp watching my alma mater play,” Weddle said. “20 years earlier, that was never a possibility. You could have never drawn up a script that said Utah is going to play on the road in The Swamp. It just wasn’t a reality and now we are talking about six months earlier playing in the Rose Bowl. So much has happened that you just look and smile. We had a little hand in it, but these guys have really taken it to the next level.”

Eric Weddle, Original BCS Buster

Weddle was of course part of the 2004 Utah team that dismantled the Bowl Championship Series that was meant to keep a team like the Utes from competing at some of the highest levels of college football. That team was led by Urban Meyer and was the first to “bust” the BCS while producing stars such as Weddle, quarterback Alex Smith, and running back Quinton Ganther among others. Now Weddle says he’s in a place to give back to the program more, be around, and offer advice when he can.

“It’s really special to be a part of this program and try to represent it the right way,” Weddle said. “It’s nice to be able to come back and support them- not just from a far, but be able to support them at games and come up and be around the boys. Just try to shed some light and help them anyway I can.”

Weddle and his teammates back in 2004 were never expected to be program changers per se, at least not from the national standpoint. Going from a two-star, unknown player that no one was interested in out of high school, to the face of an up-and-coming program, a proponent of change within college football, and of course an absolute star in the NFL were never items on Weddles’ to-do list, but he’s happy to have been a part of it.

“As a kid in Southern California growing up, all I was taught and learned was to get a great education and work hard for what you get,” Weddle said. “Hopefully go to school, but make something of yourself. Never did I think I was going to play college football, never did I think I would be fortunate enough to play in the NFL, so for all of this to happen it’s kind of like I’m living in a dream in a sense, and it just keeps getting better and better each day I wake up.”

Leadership Matters

According to Weddle, part of what makes Utah stand out from other programs is the leadership pushing it forward. From purely a football standpoint that stems from head coach Kyle Whittingham- a man Weddle has undying respect for because of his willingness to adapt when needed.

“From where he was in 2005 his first year to now is a huge change of coach Whitt,” Weddle said. “The fire, the intensity never waivers, and doesn’t change, but some things have and it shows. A great coach is willing to adapt and willing to change, and learn, and listen. Listen to your assistants, listen to your players. The greatest coaches I’ve ever been around are the ones who listen. There is a lot of stuff that goes on throughout your program that you may not know about, and when you do, are you willing to listen and take action? I think he’s shown that, and proven that, and given his players the ability to be themselves, to choose and make decisions. That’s empowering not just now as a football team, and as an individual, but as they grow up and get into the real world to make decisions for themselves.”

The leadership Utah Athletics as a whole has shown toward the academic side- especially after joining the Pac-12 has been another component Weddle appreciates about his alma mater. He noted it’s simply not good enough to be athletically gifted. Kids need a space to grow and find themselves in other realms so they are better prepared for the real world.

“As much success we’ve had on the field, and also towards the spectrum of the University of Utah, what’s even more proud as a university is we are literally one percentage point behind Stanford for graduation rate for athletes,” Weddle said. “That’s- you’re talking about Stanford, that’s incredible. That’s what we preach, that’s what it’s all about. Reality is, odds that guys will make it to the next level and have a career are slim to none. It’s really hard. The point for the staff and the university is to grow, nurture and teach these young men to be leaders, and to be the future of the cities and communities while doing it the right way. That stems from coach Whitt and his style of coaching. How he loves and cares about the boys and tries to implement that everyday.”

Eyes On A Bigger Prize

While Weddle is very proud of all of the accomplishments and hurdles Utah has overcome to get to places they weren’t always welcomed in, he says there is a next obvious step: a National Championship.

“We aren’t here to just be good, we want to be great,” Weddle said about his alma mater. “I love that, I love the direction. I love what Dr. Hill set forth for this program way-back in the day and then Mark Harlan taking it to the next level. There is no consolation with this program. We aren’t happy because we went to the Rose Bowl. We’re disappointed because we didn’t win it. Just like last week, that loss and how that game went is going to motivate this team for the rest of the season because we expected to win that game. Things happened and we didn’t get it done, but that is the ultimate goal. We don’t play for second place.”

 

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