by Rick Istvan | Utah is often overlooked for its football talent. However, there are multiple options and talent that come from Utah’s schools. Here is a list of players in the NFC playoffs that are representing their Utah roots.
The two Dairy Utes
Joe Pesci wasn’t talking about these Utes in My Cousin Vinny. No, these two “Dairy Utes” are Jordan Love and Tipa Galeai. With the 26th overall pick in the 2020 draft the Packers chose Jordan Love quarterback from Utah State. Even though he hasn’t gotten any playing time he has had the chance to learn from Rodgers. It might not be this year, but you will see Jordan Love under center for Green Bay.
Rookie defensive End Tipa Galeai went undrafted out of Utah State. He has spent all of this year on the Packers practice squad. He did however get activated for one game this year. Galeai was activated during the Packers 43-34 week 1 win over the Vikings. Even though neither of these players have gotten a chance, they still have an opportunity. The Packers have clinched their division and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They are an NFC favorite for the Super Bowl. They need to get past the Bucc’s and Saints, but in Lambeau in January anything is possible. For these two Ute’s the dream at a Lombardi Trophy is still alive.
You also can’t forget about former BYU Cougar Jamaal Williams who gets some carries at the running back position for the Packers. He could get anywhere from 5-15 carries. Aaron Jones gets the lion’s share of the carries which is probably fighting words in Wisconsin since the Detroit Lions are in the NFC North Division. The Packers still have to wait to find out who their opponent is. They clinched a first round bye.
It’s an uphill battle for this Saint
The New Orleans saints are the number two seed in the NFC playoff hunt. This Sunday the Saints will host the Chicago Bears in New Orleans. It’s a good thing Utah natives aren’t afraid of bears. Taysom Hill, the former BYU cougar, is questionable for Sunday’s game. Hill had suffered a concussion but has made great progress. However, he needs to be cleared by an independent neurologist in order to play this Sunday. Hill plays a huge part in the Saints offense. When Brees was out, Taysom stepped up and played quarterback. With Brees, Thomas, and Kamara all able to play Hill just adds that extra weapon. Taysum Hill is a Swiss army knife that the Saints can use in their battle for the Lombardi Trophy.
Hansen is still chasing his dream
The former Utah Ute linebacker Chase Hansen is a true Utah native. Hansen not only played college at Utah, but he also played his high school ball at Lone Peak High in Highland, Utah. This is Hansen’s first season as a member of the New Orleans Saints. He has spent most of his time on the Saints practice squad but did suit of for two games this season. Chase suited up during the Saints 34-23 win over Tampa Bay on September 13, 2020. Hansen then suited up again on January 3, 2020 when the Saints beat the Panthers in Carolina 33-7. Chase hasn’t had a full season on the roster yet, but he’s still going to “chase” his dream of a Super Bowl ring.
Saints say Mark Us (Marcus) present in the playoffs
Drafted in the 2nd round, out of Utah, in 2017 by the Saints, Marcus Williams is in his fourth year in the NFL. Williams has started every game at safety for New Orleans. The Saints have made the playoffs every year of Williams’ career but they have yet to win the chip. This season Williams has 59 total tackles, three interceptions and seven pass deflections. Marcus has been a staple in the secondary for the Saints. Williams is hoping this is the year the Saints can be present in the Super Bowl.
These Utahns settled right in with Seattle
Cody Barton is a true home grown Utahn. Barton played his high school ball at Brighton high in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. He then decided to stay local and become a Ute. Barton was drafted by Seattle in the third round in 2019. He is in his second straight playoff appearance with the Seahawks. Barton has played in all 16 games this year for Seattle. This season Barton has 35 total tackles and the forced fumbles. When Barton gets on the field, he gives it his all. This is Barton’s second playoff appearance and he doesn’t want to settle for just a one and done.
Bobby “the Aggie” Wagner
No, I’m not talking about Texas A&M. I’m talking about the Utah State Aggies. Bobby Wagner needs no introduction. Wagner, who was drafted in the second round in 2012 by Seattle, has played all nine seasons with the Seahawks. During those nine seasons Wagner has been named to seven Pro Bowls including this year. Wagner knows what it’s like not only to play in a Super Bowl, but to win one. In 2014, Seattle defeated the Denver Broncos 43-8 to win Super Bowl XLVIII. This season, Wagner has 138 total tackles, three sacks, and eight pass deflections. Wagner has arguably had an Hall of Fame career. However, adding another ring to the collection wouldn’t hurt.
Marquis Blair was a second round pick out of Utah in 2019. In his second season with Seattle, Blair tore his ACL in week two. Blair was placed on IR and will miss the rest of the 2020-21 season. Before his injury, Blair had eight total tackles and a forced fumble. Hopefully next season, Marquis will be fully recovered and can start where he left off.
Swooping into Washington for a comeback
Alex Smith is almost guaranteed the Comeback Player of the Year award. The former Utah quarterback faced a serious injury that almost ended not only his career, but his life. Just like the Utah Utes mascot, Smith “swooped” into Washington and lead the team back to the playoffs. Going 5-1 as a starter Smith threw for 1,582 yards six touchdowns and eight interceptions. In 2005, Smith was the 1st overall pick by the 49ers out of Utah. Besides Washington, Smith also lead San Francisco and Kansas City to the playoffs. Win or lose, the fact that Smith was able to start another NFL game is a miracle of its own.
Jared Norris, who also went to the University of Utah, is in his fourth NFL season. Norris signed with Washington in the offseason after missing the 2019 season. Norris played in 10 games for Washington totaling 10 tackles.
Los Angeles is “Utahopia”
Matt Gay is another true Utah native. Gay attended Orem high in Orem, UTah and then attended the University of Utah. Matt hasn’t had the easiest of paths during his NFL career. Gay was drafted 145th in the fifth round of the 2019 draft by Tampa Bay. Going into his second year Gay was waived by the Buccaneers in September. Matt spent some time on the Colts practice squad before he was finally signed by the Rams on November 17, 2020. Since signing with the Rams, Gay has been clutch. He has an 87.5% field goal completion rate. Gay has made 14 out of 16 field goals with 51 yards being the longest. He has also been perfect at extra points, making 16 out of 16. Despite Gay’s rough beginning, LA has been a true utopia for him.
Terrell Burgess was a third round pick out of Utah for the Rams. The rookie safety played in seven games for the Rams before he suffered a broken ankle in late October 2020. Burgess had eight total tackles and one pass deflection before his injury got him placed on the injured reserve. Burgess should make a full recovery and be back in the secondary for the Rams in 2021.
Jonah Williams is another rookie for the LA Rams. Williams was an un-drafted defensive end out of Weber State. He has spent the season on the Rams practice squad developing his talents. At 6’5 275 lbs the 25 year old rookie should take every opportunity to learn from a player like Aaron Donald. Hopefully the young Weber State Alum will get his chance with the Rams in the near future.
Jalen Greene is another player on the Rams out of Utah State. Hopefully he will get a chance to get on the field at some point as well. He is a wide receiver who was part of the high-octane Aggie offense in 2018. He caught an abundance of passes from now Packers QB Jordan Love.
Aggies and Utes on Da Bears that’s right
Jaylon Johnson was a drafted by Chicago in the second round in the 2020 draft out of the University of Utah. As a rookie, Johnson has made a name for himself. In his first thirteen games Johnson had 44 total tackles, one tackle for a loss and 15 pass deflections. After suffering a shoulder injury in December, Johnson has missed the last three games. Johnson has been listed as questionable for Sundays game against the Saints. With the way he’s played up to this point, I’m sure Johnson would love a chance to prove his skills in the playoffs.
It may be a long shot but scales would love to snap the playoff run for the Saints
Patrick Scales is a long snapper out of Utah State. Scales is in his fifth year will the Bears. This isn’t Patrick’s first playoff experience. Scales was the long snapper for the Bears in 2018 the last time they made the playoffs. The former Aggie would love a chance at a Lombardi Trophy. However, before that happens the Bears need to beat Drew Brees and the Saints. A Bears win seems like a long shot and the scales aren’t tipped in the Bear’s favor. But, this is the NFL and on any given Sunday things can change at the snap of a finger.
Be sure to catch our AFC Wild Card preview of other standout Utahns here. You can also vote on our Twitter poll to let us know which NFC Wild Card player out of Utah is most likely to reach the Super Bowl.
Featured image courtesy Getty Images