This post is sponsored by NCAA Football 2011 and is part of a week-long series that will further introduce Utah football.
I don't remember the exact moment I became a Utah fan. I don't even remember why I began cheering for the Utes in the first place. It just happened. It's kind of like walking. You know you did it, you just don't remember doing it for the first time.
For me, though, my fandom is rooted in my family. We weren't typical Utahns because we weren't LDS. We never had been LDS. My family emigrated over from Ireland and somehow found their way to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was an unlikely place for a group of Irish potato famine survivors fresh off the boat - but it's where they called home.
My mom's parents were huge into sports. That's probably where I get my love for it because, outside of the occasional NFL game, my father is fairly apathetic. But grandpa and grandma loved college sports.
For grandpa, he cheered for three teams. The first was his alma mater Utah State. He was an Aggie. He proudly graduated from there shortly before marrying my grandma and never lost his love of 'em. Then there was the Notre Dame Irish. He and my grandma loved the Irish for obvious reasons. Finally, there was Utah.
Neither graduated from the U. Grandma attended St. Mary of the Wasatch Catholic College here in Salt Lake (it not longer exists) and as I mentioned, grandpa spent his college years up in Logan. But they were Salt Lakers. Grandma graduated from West and grandpa from East. So they grew up very familiar with Utah football - especially during a time of great success.
So the seeds were planted fairly early for both.
Then I came along. Like I said, I don't remember when I began cheering for them. I just remember watching old college football games with grandpa in his den. At first, it was mostly Notre Dame games and that's where I established my love of Irish football (it solidified during the 1993 Carmelite Fair when the Carmelite nuns had made up Catholics vs. Mormons t-shirts to give away for the pending Notre Dame-BYU game - Irish won! - later that year).
But it wasn't long before I began cheering for the Utes. They were the home team and it was natural. As natural as walking.
I remember my first Utah game was that same year of that Carmelite Fair - so 1993. Utah had yet to become consistently good under Ron McBride and the football program was still living in the massive shadow of BYU. But we could never, ever cheer for the Cougars. That was beaten into my brain from birth.
So grandpa and I went to the old Rice Stadium to watch Utah take on Idaho. What a great first game, right?
Well the Utes lost. That just shows you how far this program has come. My first game was a loss, at home, to Idaho. Who, at the time, was not even division one. Embarrassing.
I guess it showed me what I would be willing to endure as a Utah fan because obviously I had a blast, since I've kept coming back all these years.
Now I don't remember much from that game. Just that grandpa was visibility agitated and that led to him swearing the entire ride home.
But I believe I can trace being a fan back to that moment. It was one of the first of many Utah games I'd watch with either grandpa or grandma.
Neither are around anymore. Grandpa went in 2002 and grandma the week after the 2003 Holy War. 2003 was special because we got to watch one last Holy War together in her hospital room. The Utes won, of course.
I've got to think they're still up there watching these games with me. And I'm sure grandpa is still cursing loudly. Much to grandma's chagrin.
That's my story. What's yours? How did you become a Ute fan?