Utah athletics has a pretty storied history. There have been Final Fours and BCS bowls and a lot in between.
If you're a fan, certainly there are memories and moments that you'll carry to the grave. Maybe it was Utah's remarkable run through the NCAA tournament in 1998 or the 2004 undefeated season in football. It also could be minor moments, like LeVon Edwards' 91-yard touchdown run off a blocked field goal as time expired against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Regardless, if you're fan, you've got memories.
Patrick Sheltra, a graduate of the University of Utah and a longtime fan of the program, decided to sit down and actually write a book on all those memories and moments. It certainly is the most complex and definitive handbook on anything and everything involving Utah athletics.
If you're a fan of history, especially moments that happened before your fandom, this book is certainly for you.
It details everything from tailgating to inclusion into the Pac-12. Everything and anything that has played an important role in Utah athletics finds its way into this book.
I was fortunate enough to actually ask Patrick Sheltra, who also occasionally posts on Block U, a few questions on his new book. It provided an insightful look into the process and you can read those questions and answers after the jump...
Block U: Your book is titled 100 Things Utes Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die – so what should Ute fans know about this book?
Patrick Sheltra: With the growth of the Utah fan base over the years, it's important to remember that Utah football's history and tradition isn't confined to 2003-present. That's certainly one aspect in which I'm most proud, in that "100 Things Utah" looks at all eras. And because sports fans are always interested in talking about "Greatest This" or "Most Memorable That," that the format of "100 Things Utah" is a great bedrock for such discussions. No one had gone in that direction before with Utah football -- not in book form, anyway.
Block U: What inspired you to write this book?
Patrick Sheltra: The market needed it. Utah fans needed it. There isn't a lot out there on Utah football -- unlike Alabama, which probably has seen a dozen or so books on Bear Bryant alone. The format was perfect for my writing style, and that Triumph had done "100 Things" for other teams, it seemed like it was a perfect match.
Block U: How long was the process of researching and eventually writing this book?
Patrick Sheltra: The book clocks in at over 80,000 words, and I wrote it in about four months, mostly on weekends and nights. The research was fun, because I knew of good secondary sources I could use, and the internet aided me significantly in finding those sources. And of course, the cooperation I received from the Utah football family was incredible.
Block U: What kind of research was involved and who did you get to meet while doing it?
Patrick Sheltra: The internet could not aid me with older eras of Utah football like it could with the present, and for obvious reasons -- those eras simply were not documented as extensively as more recent teams have been. Utah would never be confused with a Notre Dame or Ohio State program, programs which have been written about extensively for decades. That's not to say the Salt Lake Tribune or Deseret News didn't do so, but their archives reveal only so much.
So I had to find people who were part of the program and talk with them. Guys like Mike Giddings, Steve Odom, LaVon Edwards, George Siefert, Luther Elliss, etc. -- those guys were able to fill in a lot of blanks about their respective eras. I know I'm missing some names, but I'm being deliberate by doing so -- go buy the book and see what other voices pop up.
Block U: When you were writing 100 Things Utes Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, did you have a basic outline of the 100 things or did you have to piece it together like a large puzzle?
Patrick Sheltra: When I submitted my proposal to Triumph Books, I did so with about 80 items in mind -- items that I got off the cuff. I figured if I could come up with 80 that easily, that good research would give me another 20. And some of those original 80 didn't make the cut, because I was able to find items that were far more compelling.
Block U: Was there anything you were researching that ultimately surprised you?
Patrick Sheltra: There are two that stand out. The recruitment of O.J. Simpson was something that had been told over the years, but so many of the details were lacking that, after time, it would've been easy to pass it off as an urban myth of sorts. Mike Giddings gives the low-down on how that happened -- how Utah let the Juice loose. Probably the biggest disappointment for me in researching the book was that my efforts to talk with O.J. about Utah's recruiting efforts were turned down by the Nevada Department of Corrections, but I knew going in that being granted such a request would've been a long shot.
But in talking about O.J. and how he would've fit in at Utah, Giddings mentioned that he already had a good running back in Charlie Smith. After I went back to research Charlie, I discovered his role in the Heidi Game -- which became No. 65 in "100 Things Utah." The Heidi Game forever changed the attitude networks had toward televised sporting events. It's a seminal moment not just in pro football, but in the history of television. It was a huge relief to have discovered Charlie Smith and the Heidi Game, because this came several months into the writing/research process, and I was always on guard to the possibility that I might be missing something.
Block U: As a fan, what’s your favorite moment in Utah athletics history?
Patrick Sheltra: The moments you live generally are the ones you cherish most. I've been to the Sugar Bowl. I was at Hughes in 1994 for the CSU game. I was at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2004 when Utah clinched a BCS berth by routing BYU. But I was also at Amon G. Carter in 2009 when TCU destroyed Utah. Part of "100 Things Utah" isn't just about the tremendous highs, but also the stupefying lows. Your favorite moments can't be appreciated without giving proper due to the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. It's probably why 2007 UNLV, in its own perverse way, is such a cherished game among the Utah faithful. That game -- "Flat Broke and Busted in Vegas" -- is No. 33 in "100 Things Utah." Maybe it's too high, maybe it's just right. That's for the reader to decide.
So with all of that in mind, nothing gives me the chills and goosebumps like the final drive of the 2008 game against TCU, a game I didn't have the fortune of attending. I've probably watched the final six minutes of that game at least 100 times. If there is an emotion that exists that Utah fans didn't go through during that game, I'd like to know about it.
Block U: Are you already brainstorming your next idea?
Patrick Sheltra: Just like Utah football was widely underrepresented in the book market regionally, I think the story of the non-BCS schools in the BCS era has been likewise. There are too many great players, games and coaches from this era for their stories not to be told.
I would like to thank Patrick Sheltra for taking the time to answer my questions. His book is on sale now and you can even pick up a copy on Amazon.com.