Utes celebrate early Christmas with bowl amenities


— Chris Samuels

Christmas came early for the Utes this year as players, coaches and staff filed up the stairs from the weight room at the Eccles Football Facility to the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl gift suite held in the facility’s media room.
For both the players who have never experienced a bowl game before and for those experienced players who have missed out on the bowl amenities over the past two seasons, it was a welcome sight and a feeling reminiscent of those Christmas mornings when you used to run up or down the stairs to gaze upon your bounty of gifts.
For quarterback Travis Wilson? A new pair of headphones.
Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen? A mix-master for his children.
The offensive line? State-of-the-art reclining chairs complete with two drink holders and multiple USB ports for their electronic devices.
Running backs coach Dennis Erickson? He’s been to so many bowl games that he said he could no longer keep track of whether his appliances are ones he’s bought or ones he’s received as bowl gifts.
While there is still unfinished work to be taken care of in the desert of Las Vegas next weekend, Christmas was definitely in the air at the football facility as players picked gifts and talked about their holiday plans after the game next Saturday.
Receiver Kenneth Scott, after giving away his gifts to other players, said he was going to be doing a lot of traveling after the bowl game.
“I’m going back home to California to go see everybody,” Scott said. “See all my family and friends I haven’t seen in a while, then go to my girl’s house in Oregon and spend Christmas there. Then in January I get to go to Texas to see more family, so those are my travel plans for the holidays.”
Linebacker Jason Whittingham said he would rather spend the holidays closer to home but hinted a vacation might be in the works later in the offseason.
“I’ll probably just visit family a lot,” Whittingham said. “I don’t get to visit them that much during the season because it’s all about football for three or four months, so it will be nice to see everyone again and just relax during the holidays. I think it would be great to go to Disneyland, but we’ll see what happens.”
Many players said they plan on relaxing with family and friends over their holiday break. For some, like defensive end Nate Orchard, the break won’t be as easy. After winning the Ted Hendricks award — awarded to the nation’s best defensive end — earlier this week, the highly touted lineman will spend his offseason training, working out and preparing for the Reeses’ Senior Bowl Game as well as a possible NFL Combine spot later in the spring.
While waiting for his wife to join him in picking out their bowl gifts, Orchard said even a couple days relaxing in Las Vegas after the game would be enough of a break for him.
“I don’t know what I’m doing over Christmas yet,” Orchard said. “Hopefully I’ll get to spend a few extra days in Vegas after the game, which would be nice. Either way, I just want to enjoy myself a little bit before I start training after the holidays.”
What was the most popular holiday plan among the players? Going down to Las Vegas and ending their season with a victory over the Colorado State Rams.
Surely, that would be a bowl gift that all Utah fans can enjoy this holiday season.
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