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September 19, 2013

It's good to be a Ute

It happens on both sides of the rivalry, for one reason or another, an athlete crosses over to what used to be enemy lines. This year is no different as BYU has one-time Ute fans in Mike Hague and Richard Wilson (to name two). On the Utes' side, there are guys like tight ends, Jake Murphy and Harrison Handley.

Handley's father Darren was a dominant tight end for BYU in the 80s and Murphy, who's story has been well told by now, committed to the Cougars, came back off his mission, and had a change of heart.

So what was it that made two life-long BYU fans change allegiances?

"I think that what put the Utes over the top was just the coaching staff, how close I was with them," explained Handley. "Also, Utah is in the Pac-12 and that was really important to me to have Pac-12 competition. My dad was supportive. Whatever I wanted to do, he was happy for me. So was the rest of my family. They all had my back and whatever I wanted to do, they were supporting that."

For Murphy, it was a different kind of decision. It is well documented that Murphy, a devout member of the LDS faith, believes that you can live just as good of a religious experience at the University of Utah as you can at BYU.

"It was a crazy experience, how it all worked out," claimed Murphy. "Ultimately, I feel like I was inspired to come here. At the end of my mission, once I got home, I talked to my parents, and just over things, I decided that this was the best place for me. If you would have told me I ended up here before my mission, I would have been surprised, but it's all worked out and it sounds cliché, but I know it was meant to be."

"My little brother (McKay), he's a walk-on freshman here, that was another reason. You know, he was planning on coming here after his mission and before his mission, I got to live with him when I was redshirting, so that was a big thing. I got to live with him and help him prepare for his mission, which was a huge reason also to come here, just spend some more time with him and be with him."

So far for Handley, who is currently redshirting, the experience has been all he could ask for. "I mean, it's a good experience. I love being over here and I couldn't ask for anything better. It's such a great opportunity for me. I'm just looking forward to watching the games from the sideline, but even though I'm redshirting, I'm looking forward to it."

The last time Utes and Cougars played in Provo, it was a 54-10 onslaught by the Utes and in a way it was a coming out party for Murphy. Just like every other game in the Holy War, Saturday will be quite the experience for Murphy, who has a good opportunity to be featured in the game.

"Growing up in Utah especially, you always watch that game and being a player now, it's a fun atmosphere. You always love going in, especially against a great team like BYU. It's just fun, it's just a fun atmosphere. It'll be real intense, real challenging, but just a lot of fun overall," said Murphy.

So the question is, now that these two have switched sides in the rivalry, has the their entire family decided to "choose the red?"

"I hope (none are rooting for BYU), but you never know," said Handley with a laugh. "I think my grandpa still has season tickets up there (at BYU), so I always give him crap. He needs to cancel that and get them up at the U, but I think there's a few, but that's alright."

As for Murphy, he claims his entire immediate family are now full-blown Utes. "It's been a fun experience, all of our immediate family members I think you could say are 100% Utes. My in-laws have more BYU fans, but they'll make jokes every once in a while about BYU, but I think we're swaying most our family members to become full-time Ute fans."

In fact, the Murphy family has ties to all of the D1 schools in the state, as his mom was once a BYU cheerleader, his brother Shawn played at Utah State, and now he and McKay play for the Utes. "We've kind of covered it all. We have fun with it. It's just a fun thing overall, that's what sports are meant to be," said Murphy.

While he has yet to play a down because of redshirting, Handley is just soaking in the experience and loving his time on the hill. "It's a great family over here at the U and just an amazing experience," said Handley. "I'm so glad that I get to be a part of this and get to be a part of the team that gets to play BYU for the last time these next couple years."


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