UTAH UTES

Former Utah Football Star, DC Steve F. Hallsey Discusses Athletes For Life Experience

Jul 12, 2023, 3:14 PM | Updated: 3:30 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Former Utah football star and defensive coordinator Steve F. Hallsey joined Crimson Corner to discuss his experience helping run Athletes For Life’s football camp at the Uintah-Ouray Ute Reservation.

Hallsey grew up in Utah and was a three-sport athlete at American Fork High before starting for three years at Utah. After graduating from the University of Utah, Hallsey quickly got into coaching his former team as the linebacker coach and defensive coordinator.

Recently, Hallsey joined forces with several of his former players including former kicker and Athletes For Life founder, Hank Mondaca to help bridge gaps in the greater Utah community.

Steve F. Hallsey Was Another Young Utah Coordinator

Many will remember when current Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham hired Sugar Bowl quarterback Brian Johnson to be his offensive coordinator at the age of 25. Well, Hallsey can relate to the pressure and learning curve that comes with a lot of responsibility being given to a guy who just wrapped up their playing career too.

Hallsey, like Johnson, didn’t waste any time moving up the coaching ranks at Utah, but as the defensive coordinator in the mid-70’s through early 80’s.

“I was one of the 10 youngest defensive coordinators in the country when I was named defensive coordinator,” Hallsey said. “It was a great honor that someone would recognize a great ability or talent. I probably took more away from that experience than I gained. I think I was technically sound in terms of defensive coordinator and understanding defenses and coverages- understanding that part of the game, but I think the piece I might have been missing was really understanding the young men I was coaching. I was almost their same age and so it was very difficult to make that separation and create that separation between coach and player.”

 

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Ultimately, Hallsey got out of coaching, largely thanks to a certain BYU and San Francisco 49ers star quarterback putting up over 400 yards of offense on his defense.

“Steve Young is a tremendous athlete,” Hallsey said. “He is such an incredible human being- not just a great athlete, but he’s incredibly intelligent. We took a team down to Cougar Stadium and I thought our team was well-prepared. We had some tremendous athletes and whether it was poor preparation on my part or really not understanding the skillset of Steve Young, but for him to throw that many yards- we had one of the best defenses in the league. It really put a perspective on my life.”

The Utes Sharing Adversity With The Utes

One of the more powerful moments during the Athletes For Life camps came in the locker room huddles where four former Utah athletes who have gone on to or are currently playing in the NFL shared some of the adversity they went through to be successful.

In an age of social media where it is easy to skip over the lowlights for the highlights and accolades, hearing some of the best athletes to ever wear the drum and feather discuss the bumps in the road they had to overcome was huge.

Whether it was Cody Barton being vulnerable about breaking his back and wondering if anyone was going to give him a college offer, to Dave Cullity spending most of his college career injured after a horrible car accident his freshman year, to Erroll Tucker simply being too short, and Jackson Barton having all of the physical gifts in the world, but needing to learn how to be disciplined in his approach every day- there was something for everyone to take away.

 

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“Here are individuals that you look at and say- Dave Cullity went to the Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers with Joe Montana for heaven’s sakes,” Hallsey said. “The guy had more injuries during his college career than probably anyone deserved and for him to have that mental toughness- that discipline to continue to push himself. To continue to work toward a goal I think resonated with those individuals.”

Athletes For Life Building Bridges In Utah Community One Step At A Time

What Athletes For Life started with the Ute Reservation in Roosevelt and Union High School is important in Hallsey’s eyes. In many ways the world has gotten more divisive, but what happened over those two days was a step in the right direction for Union High, the University of Utah and the Utes to better understand each other and build a bridge to a stronger community overall.

 

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“I think it is critical,” Hallsey said. “That’s the way you build bridges. That’s the only way you can breakdown stereotypes, that’s the only way you can breakdown barriers is by making sure there is a connection. I think this is a big step towards that. I was so impressed with the number of individuals from the Ute Tribe that wanted to participate and contribute and be a part of that program. I think it speaks volumes. I would sincerely hope that we don’t go away from that- from that Ute image for the University of Utah because I think – Kyle Whittingham’s done a great job of integrating it into his programs, the halftime shows- all of those kinds of things. Bringing that sort of environment into Salt Lake City I think is important and taking the University of Utah out to them- not making them come to us, but let’s go out to them. Let’s make the connections. Let’s do the connective tissue that creates something special between those individuals because there wasn’t a person I met out there that I didn’t greatly respect after that wasn’t thoughtful, that wasn’t respectful. It was a wonderful experience.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Former Utah Football Star, DC Steve F. Hallsey Discusses Athletes For Life Experience