We’ve always, from the very beginning, tried to keep things separate — family life and football. So when we’re at football, I don’t really look at him as my dad and I don’t think he looks at me like his son. I’m his player and he’s my coach and we try to keep it like that. I wouldn’t have it any other way. —Utah linebacker Alex Whittingham, coach Kyle Whittingham's son
SALT LAKE CITY — If you want the inside story on Kyle Whittingham, there is no better source than Alex Whittingham, the coach’s son, who is a reserve linebacker for the Utes.
If you need the name of The Beatles’ drummer before Ringo, he can help with that, too.
“Pete Best,” Alex says, rapid-fire. “It was Pete Best. Then he got dumped right before they got big.”
The scoop on the Whittingham family is that Utah’s football coach is a full-on Beatles fan. The man who lives and breathes down-dirty defensive football also believes all you need is love.
Plus a good bull rush.
Naturally, the whole family went to the Paul McCartney concert Aug. 7 in Salt Lake.
“Paul has always been my favorite Beatle. Dad — to the day he dies — will say John Lennon. We argue about this,” says the younger Whittingham. “He favors Lennon but I’m all about McCartney.”
He’s also all about being a Whittingham, which is a good thing. Many kids who grow up around fame run from the challenge. Not Alex. He’s been asked what it’s like to be the Ute coach’s son since he was in grade school.
“All the (youth) coaches were like, ‘You related?’ I’ve answered it so many times,” Alex says. “But it’s been good.”
Good, yes. Easy, no. Despite prevailing opinion, he doesn’t get favorable treatment from the boss. There’s a good chance he won’t play much this season, though cousin Jason is expected to start at linebacker. A high school knee injury and an undersized body make Alex an unlikely candidate to star. He says his father treats him like one of the guys as fall camp continues.
“We’ve always, from the very beginning, tried to keep things separate — family life and football,” Alex says. “So when we’re at football, I don’t really look at him as my dad and I don’t think he looks at me like his son. I’m his player and he’s my coach and we try to keep it like that. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
This isn’t the first time the Whittingham name has affixed itself to all things Utah. Kyle and Jamie Whittingham have four children: Tyler, Melissa, Alex and Kylie. Melissa was a Utah cheerleader. Tyler played for Utah in 2009-11. Last year Alex returned from an LDS mission and redshirted. Fred Jr., Kyle’s brother, is the director of player personnel. Fred Sr., their father, was an assistant coach at both BYU and Utah.
So it was only natural — or inevitable — that Alex would play for the Utes. The knee injury waylaid his senior year of high school, but the mission layoff helped with the healing. Though teammates tease him, Alex says most of the decisions on linebackers come from defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake anyway, not the head coach.
“It’s a much more difficult situation if you’re coaching him directly,” says Kyle, who played at BYU when his father was a Cougar assistant. “I’m not his position coach, but in that case, I can tell you from when my father was my coach that, yeah, they are harder on you. I know that from experience.”
That doesn’t keep them from doing what families do — in this case tracking The Beatles. The family attended both this month’s McCartney concert and the one at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy in 2010. Alex knows, for instance, that “Hey Jude” isn’t about drugs, it was about Lennon’s son Julian. “Blackbird” is about the 1960s civil rights movement in America.
"You were only waiting for this moment to arise,” Alex says, quoting the lyrics.
“That song’s probably my favorite, actually,” he adds.
As for Dad trivia, there’s this: Kyle loves low-scoring games as much as he loves The Beatles. Among the coach’s fondest memories are Utah’s 10-6 Las Vegas Bowl victory over USC in 2001, and the Utes’ 3-0 win over BYU in 2003.
“I think his all-time favorite is that 2003 BYU game; just the defensive battle,” Alex says.
Whether it’s Beatles songs or coaching wins, it’s never a bad time to relive the greatest hits.
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