A Flag Football Journey Across Three Universities


(Photo courtesy of Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/kigoa-football-on-green-grass-during-daytime-209956/)

By Isaac Dunaway, Sports Writer


Sports mean a lot for many people. They are a great way to relax and enjoy some free time. For University of Utah medical student Ty Whitaker, this applies now more than ever.

Whitaker grew up playing football, lacrosse and wrestling in his hometown of Rancho Santa Margarita, California, located in Orange County. Although he stopped playing football when he got to high school, he has kept up flag football as a hobby and way to have fun with his friends.

Whitaker spent half of his undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University–Hawaii and half at BYU’s main campus in Provo, studying microbiology. He played on club flag football teams at both locations. After finishing undergrad, he came up to the U for medical school.

(Photo courtesy of Tyler Whitaker)

“Med school is kind of like, you just go where you get in,” Whitaker said. “I got into three med schools but I ended up choosing the U just because I was already up here. I like Utah. It’s a good spot. The U is a really good school. It’s helping set me up pretty good, too.”

Life as a medical school student is not easy. Like many here at the U, Whitaker maintains a very busy schedule these days.

“I just had a kid in December, so my schedule is a little bit more complex,” Whitaker said. “I wake up at like 6 a.m., get ready, do some stuff, work out, whatever. Class starts at 8 a.m., I’m in class from like eight to noon, typically. I’ll study, do research [or] work at some of the student-run clinics. On a day with just homework and stuff, I’m done at five or six. On days when I have a clinic or research, sometimes it’s later. And [I] do it again the next day.” 

One way Whitaker has spent his free time throughout his studies is by competing on intramural flag football teams, at all of his stops. Whitaker grew up playing a variety of sports, including football.

“I played [football] all growing up. I stopped in high school … My first Pop Warner football team was when I was six or something like that. I played until I was 14 or 15,” Whitaker said. “I would just play [flag football] for fun with my friends once I stopped playing league football.”

Whitaker won intramural championships both at BYU–Hawaii and BYU. However, he hasn’t been able to keep the dynasty going and win a championship here at the U yet. 

“All through undergrad I always had a flag football team like every year and it’s fun — I like to play sports,” Whitaker said. “I’ve kind of got the med school schedule under control. I decided to find some of my buddies that were also somewhat athletic in med school. We made a team and ended up recruiting a couple other guys because we were short on players.”

Despite not being able to win the championship this past season, it was still a strong season for Whitaker’s team. They were a top-3 seed in the playoffs and ended up losing in the first round to the team who won the championship.

Whitaker is just one of many examples of how popular football is at the U. Rice-Eccles Stadium has sold out every home football game going back to the 2010 home opener against the Pittsburgh Panthers, as of July 2022. A record-breaking 53,609 fans were in attendance to see the Utes’ dramatic 43-42 victory over the USC Trojans on Oct. 15.


For many U students like Whitaker, football and other sports are a great part of the college experience. Whether they’re filling up the Mighty Utah Student Section on game days, participating in intramural sports or even competing on an official Utah athletics team, sports make up a significant part in a lot of students’ years at Utah.

Whitaker is currently in his second year of medical school at the U and hopes to go into ophthalmology after he finishes up at the U.


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