Today’s feature may be somewhat of a cheat, but keep with me as we honor one of the greatest Utes of the PAC-12 era. The one, the only...
If the name doesn’t ring a bell but the face is all too familiar, that might be because you recognize him as Nate Orchard, and he wore number 8. BUT before he was a team captain and mayor of Sack Lake City, he was freshman Nate Fakahafua, wearing #96 all the way back in 2011. That season, Nate would see playing time in all 13 games, seeing action on special teams, defensive end and linebacker, tallying three solo tackles on the season. One season later, Nate would switch jerseys (taking the Orchard name still one season later in 2013), start 11 games at left defensive end and the rest is history. Much of the nation would first take notice of Nate against USC in 2012 when a forced fumble recovery returned for a touchdown showcased his brute strength. By his senior season, the man officially known now as Nate Orchard had claimed the third-most sacks in school history (25) and the second-most tackles for loss with 38.5, was named to ten All-American teams including first team Walter Camp, ESPN, Phil Steele, and SB Nation, all while collecting various trophies including the Ted Hendricks and Morris Award.
Orchard would go on to be selected by the Cleveland Browns in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft. His freshman campaign was promising, recording 36 tackles and three sacks through 11 starts, as well as picking off former Ute legend Alex Smith for his first and only career INT. However, an injury in his second season sidelined Orchard for much of the 2016 season. By 2017, Orchard looked to be back in his prime but was ultimately cut by the Browns before the start of the 2018 fall camp. Since them, Orchard has been something of a practice squad journeyman, with his latest spot landing him in Washington as of December 14, 2021.