Britain Covey on the art of the punt return, the healing power of horses and prepping for the NFL

Feb 4, 2022, 5:58 PM
utah utes win Pac-12 championship and head to rose bowl...
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 03: Wide receiver Britain Covey #18 of the Utah Utes celebrates the team's 38-10 victory over the Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 Conference championship game at Allegiant Stadium on December 3, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The win cleared the way for the Utes to go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in school history. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Wide receiver Britain Covey set the University of Utah football record in career punt return yards (1,092). Who can forget his 97-yard punt return for a touchdown on New Year’s Day to help the Utes maintain a lead during the Rose Bowl against Ohio State?

He joined Inside Sources host Boyd Matheson to talk about the art of the punt return, social-media fan fickleness, a life-changing injury, the healing power of horses and making it in the NFL.

Covey on ‘Organized chaos’

“You’ve been part of a great family legacy focused on principles,” Boyd said. “And so, I want to start with some first principles just about kick returning, punt returning in particular, which is sort of organized chaos. And you are the target.”

“People ask me what my motivation is, or thoughts are on a punt return. And most the time it’s just fear, just scared of getting tackled,” Covey said.

He said from the snap to the kick, to its peak, to catching the ball, his eyes are focused on different spots on the football field.

“And then our blockers are setting up a specific scheme. So, it’s just, it’s very technical. And it’s really cool. But the main thing is just to catch the ball,” he said, adding he aced the punt-returner job by catching the ball more consistently than other players vying for the same spot on the team.

“That was the only reason why I got on the field at the beginning of my career was because I could catch the ball.”

“We get caught in our politics. We get caught in business by looking four steps down the road. And then we muff the early stuff and never get a chance to do the really cool stuff,” Boyd said.

Resilience of Covey

“You went through one of those big-time devastating ACL injuries. What did you learn about yourself in that process?” Boyd asked.

“That was such a difficult process for me. I met my wife in that time, which was the silver lining,” Covey said.

He said during his freshman year he would read comments and compliments on social media, such as “You are so fast,” and “You’re so good.” But after his ACL injury, he learned those same complimentary people had changed. And were instead saying: “What are we doing giving Covey the ball?” “He’s not the same type of player,” and “He’ll never be as fast as he once was.”

“It hurt, of course, but I realized that you can’t put your value on yourself, your worth in, obviously, what other people think of you, but in just your production on a football field because that’s so up and down and so unpredictable,” Covey said.

He said he knows his worth as a person is more than what he does (or doesn’t do) on the football field in one game.

“I feel like that’s helped me a lot because now, even if I don’t make the NFL or if I don’t have a good game or whatever it is, I’m not disappointed in myself. As a person, I can move forward.”

A horse to heal

July 1, 2021, marked the first day NCAA athletes were permitted to sign endorsement deals and earn money from their name, image and likeness without fear of losing their college eligibility.

“You partnered with Bridle Up Hope, which I know is not just a thing. It is an integral part of a mission to make a difference, especially for young women. Tell us about that,” Boyd said.

“The first thing I did was I called my uncle Sean because he’s the one that runs that charity in honor of his daughter, Rachel, who passed in 2011 or 2012. And she was my cousin and a good friend,” Covey said. “. . .  and it’s like you said, it just helps young girls battling depression, different aspects of mental health.

“Hundreds of girls have gone through the program, and I’ve talked to them, and they say it’s life-changing. And so, I wanted to promote that. Because it really is so much more impactful than anything I could have promoted.”

Up next: NFL

“Give us a quick snapshot of what your preparation looks like. What you’re looking forward to [in] your efforts to break into the NFL?” Boyd asked

“‘I’m just training and, obviously, training for the NFL is pretty intense. I’ve got to gain a little bit of weight,” Covey said. “I don’t know what’s gonna come of it, but I hope someone gives me a shot.”

“That is another great principle: Be ready for your shot,” Boyd said in closing.

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.

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Britain Covey on the art of the punt return, the healing power of horses and prepping for the NFL