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Opinion: Ute Fans, Rise Up

NCAA Football: Weber State at Utah Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Ty Jordan’s death shortly after the 2020 season concluded left a wound that is still fresh. Anyone who has watched a Utes game this season, especially those who have attended a home game in person, can attest to this. His presence is felt far and wide, whether it be in the concourse where section N22 houses his memorial, the locker room where his uniform is still preserved, or by the many fans who wander the stands with his name and number affixed to their shirts, jerseys, and flags and cheer loudly before the fourth quarter starts as his “Moment of Loudness” tribute echoes throughout the stadium. It’s far from unreasonable to assume his team, from coaches down to the practice squad, isn’t still processing his passing, and in the midst of their grieving, they’ve now lost another brother. A brother who grew up with Ty. A brother who was honored with the privilege of carrying on his legacy by wearing his number. A brother who was granted a scholarship in memory of his long-time friend. A brother who was celebrating a homecoming win in front of a raucous Rice-Eccles crowd with his teammates just hours before, a setting and feeling Ty was never able to experience.

The tragic passing of Aaron Lowe underscores a simple reality that we as fans should have acknowledged from the start; 2021 might be a rough season. Coping with the untimely death of two teammates is hard enough to overcome, let alone during a global pandemic that has surely impacted nearly every member of the Utah team in one way or another. You won’t find a team anywhere with a darker cloud hanging over them than the Utes. They deserve our compassion and support as they heal from the months of tragedy they’ve endured and will continue to endure as the season trudges along.

As fans, we rightfully set expectations for our team. We’re allowed to, after all. We individually spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars each and every season on tickets and t-shirts, take time away from our jobs and other responsibilities to take in a game, with some traveling across state lines to see the team in person or surrounded by their friends and family. That type of financial and emotional investment entitles fans to expect a certain level of success in return for their continued support. When those expectations aren’t met, it’s easy to invest less and pull back support. That simply can’t happen this season.

Utah’s goal of a Rose Bowl bid is still very much on the table. I’m not here to tell you the season is a lost cause. Far from. This team could just as easily run the table and finish the season with an ending too perfect for even Hollywood to imagine. What I am here to tell you is it’s okay if it doesn’t work out that way. Some things (most things) are bigger than football. This season will highlight that, through the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, the thick and the thin. The grief this team will carry is heavy and would be enough to cripple most of us. Setting foot on the gridiron every weekend without one of their own and giving their all is no easy task.

Regardless of what happens next, this isn’t the season to jump on Twitter to criticize the coaching staff for every questionable play or call out every dropped pass and missed tackle. Instead, celebrate their strength and resilience in moving forward. Go to the games, be loud, wave your flags, and show the nation what it means to be “Ute Proud”.