The Henchman: A Utah Fanatics Story

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The Henchman: A Utah Fanatics Story

By Brayden Ramsay

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Ute football has some diehard fans. Some may lose their voices cheering as the game moves along while others may be watching the game as intensely as a strength coach on leg day. Some fans are even recognizable game after game because of their extravagant outfits and excitability. One of those fans you might regularly recognize goes by the nickname “Utah Utes Henchman.”

Easily spotted in Rice Eccles Stadium, the Utah Henchman dons his famous spiked shoulder pads and face paint as he riles up the crowd in the north end zone. He looks rather brutish, but there is a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to the Utah Henchman. He volunteers his time to help children who are struggling with their health, he is regularly involved with his community and of course, he is a die-hard Utah fan.

“I don’t want to be known as the biggest fan. I just want to be known as someone who just loves the team. There are people out there who can’t come to these games, so I try and be there for them as well,” the Henchman said.

The peculiar name came from Utah football Head Coach Kyle Whittingham. “One of my friends went to church with him and had asked him if he had seen me at the stadium. Coach Whitt said, ‘Yeah. That’s the Henchman.’ And that’s how my name was born.”

The Henchman became a passive fan of the Utes after his parents moved the family to Utah while he was still in high school. After the university offered him a scholarship, his support for the school and their athletics took off.

While he never attended a game while he was a student at the U, some friends of his are big Utah fans, and in 2005, they created their tailgating group that is now widely known as “Ute Fan Faithful” and he decided to tag along. He started dressing up for games in 2009 and finally was able to put himself out there at games about five years ago.

Where did this idea come from? His favorite NFL team, the Oakland Raiders, and their fanbase, known as the “Black Hole.”

“I love the Raiders and wanted to bring that same vibe to Utah,” the Henchman said. “I don’t know where this is going to go, but I hope that people will start dressing up, painting their faces or doing something.”

Not only is the Utah Henchman someone who can hype up the fans at Rice-Eccles on game day, but he’s also out there supporting the Utes during away games. The Henchman has been spotted representing the Utes at every Pac-12 opponent’s home stadium at least once during the schools’ time in the Conference of Champions. Some of his favorite stadiums include Autzen Stadium, where the Oregon Ducks play, as well as the historic Rose Bowl where the Bruins of UCLA defend the gridiron.

Bowl games aren’t an exception either, as he has traveled to multiple bowls throughout his time as a Utah fan. He has only dressed up for the bowl games since 2016.

Now, after visiting so many different stadiums, the Utah Henchman had a thought for those who organize Utah game days. “Play music more throughout the game. It doesn’t even need to be only hip hop. Let the DJs play more than just before and after the game. They can hype the crowd up and make it a great experience for everyone.”

The Utah Henchman is a big advocate of involving the fans in gameday experiences. He feels that it is important to put fans on the jumbotron or involve more people in on-field activities. The Henchman wants gameday to be an event that involves the fans, instead of becoming a corporate showcase.

This year, the Utah Henchman will be wearing new shoulder pads after getting them redone in the offseason. In years past, the spikes on the pads have been knocked off, and the batteries for the lights have come off from people hitting them. This season’s pads won’t include anything that can be knocked off or damaged, but will retain the same level of a flare of the previous design.

Something that people might not think about is how the Utah Henchman is received at opposing stadiums. When he walks in, people don’t know what to do. He has been yelled at and people have tried to pick fights with him because of the way he is dressed. The Henchman, though, remains respectful and ignores the rude comments that may come his way. He is more focused on cheering on his team than he is about giving attention to opposing team’s rude fans.

When asked if he’s ever had an issue getting into a stadium with his uniform, the henchman said, “Last season at UCLA was the only time I’ve ever been stopped.” He continued, “I’ve been to a lot of games and have never been questioned like that.”

The Utah Henchman didn’t let security get him down though, as he cooperated, he let them know where he was sitting and had a good time at the game.

Some may think that the ensemble would take a while to put together. Thanks to years of practice, it now only takes the Utah Henchman about 10 minutes to get the game ready. His friends will help him put the paint on, but he does everything else on his own.

Of course, being comfortable is sometimes a question that has come to mind. At times, it may not be convenient or enjoyable to put on the paint and shoulder pads, but the Utah Henchman has stuck with the plan and dressed up for every game since he began.

Wearing the outfit has its own set of unique factors attributes that come up on the game day. One being the sweat factor. Hot days become even hotter under the shoulder pads and cold games are much more enjoyable.

“I’d much rather it be a cold game than a hot one,” the Henchman said. “I’m an ice fisherman, so the cold doesn’t phase me too much. Plus, you can always layer up underneath the shoulder pads.”

Something that the Henchman would like to see is more participation from fans throughout the games. “Being a fan is a big part of the game,” the Utah Henchman said. “If people would put more effort into game day, we could have a fantastic atmosphere at Rice-Eccles Stadium.” He is an advocate of the gameday staff and fans coming together to create a loud, memorable atmosphere for people to enjoy.

If he had to pick one game that ranks as his greatest memory as a Utah fan, the Utah Henchman would pick the Utah vs. BYU game in 2018. “We were down 20-0 and BYU fans in my section were going crazy.” He continued, “Seeing the Utes come back and win was unreal. That’s how every home crowd should sound. It was loud in every part of the stadium.”

In addition to being a diehard Ute fan on game day, the Utah Henchman is also a community volunteer that helps bring smiles to children’s faces regularly.

The Utah Henchman is more than face paint and shoulder pads. He volunteers his time at Make-a-Wish Utah, where he grants wishes for kids going through health struggles. He found out about Make-a-Wish through watching sports on TV and always thought it would be cool to contribute to the organization.

He reached out to Make-a-Wish Utah and found out that there were a few available positions. The one that the Henchman ended up getting was that of a wish granter. Each week, he volunteers a few hours to visit with families and grant wishes for kids throughout the state of Utah. “It doesn’t take a lot of time, and I would encourage anyone who has thought about joining to do it.”

Currently, the Utah Henchman has been a part of over 50 granted wishes. He said, “You can’t beat that feeling. Usually, when they get their wish, it seems like it enhances their life. They are happy and it gives them an extra push to pull through. I try to help grant one or two wishes every couple of months. Anytime I can see those kids smile and laugh is what makes it worth doing.”

Although there are times when life seems to knock at the door and he feels like he should take a break from volunteering, the Henchman says that those kids make every second worth it. If the Utah Henchman could give one piece of advice to anyone in the world, it would be, “Be good to people. Don’t expect anything to come back but know that karma will always have a way of making you feel good after doing something good for somebody else.”

Writer’s note: The Utah Henchman has asked that I keep his real name out of this article. Out of respect to his wishes, anytime he is mentioned, I will used his alter ego to keep his anonymity.

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@brayden_ramsay