SALT LAKE CITY — Utah football lost somebody special Saturday night.

Jay Rudd, a fixture around the program since 2003, passed away at the age of 37. His funeral is set for Saturday from 1-3 p.m. at The Fellowship (615 E. Sego Lily Dr.) in Sandy.

"Jay Rudd was a very important part of our program," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "We all loved him. He was a joy to have around and very inspirational. We are going to miss him."

In his obituary, it's noted that Rudd "excelled at bringing inspiring and motivating talks to the players" at Utah. Whittingham considered him an "honorary coach" who loved being around the team. Jay, he added, was always enthusiastic and regularly gave speeches after Thursday practices.

"I miss him already," Whittingham said.

Rudd began his association with the Utes while attending the same church as the parents of former player Josh Savage. He told them what a big Utah football fan he was and they made arrangements for him to attend a practice.

"The rest is history," Whittingham said. "He fit in right away, and we kind of adopted him at that point and time."

EMAIL: dirk@desnews.com