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November 3, 2012No teammate relishes the injury of another teammate, especially on the close-knit University of Utah football team. However, the team's motto is that if there's a game to be played and a man goes down, the next in line has to step up.
With the injury to up and coming back Kelvin York, redshirt sophomore running back Lucky Radley is next in line.
"Right now I think Lucky Radley probably has the edge," said head coach Kyle Whittingham during the week leading up to the Washington State game. "He's working hard and doing some good things, so that's what it's looking like at this time."
Following a York's injury in the Cal game, the Utes need depth behind John White, who so far has been unable to carry the full weight of the running game in 2012 as he did in 2011.
Radley has been the Utes' biggest cheerleader not only from the moment he stepped on campus, but also at some point during his recruitment when he decided that Utah was the program for him. He didn't let it rest at that, either. Radley actively lobbied other recruits he knew well to attend with him.
After three hard years of work, the bulk of Radley's playing time has come on special teams, but few opportunities to carry the ball at running back. Hungry for his shot, Radley hasn't been down, angry or resentful during his years of work.
"I love this team, and whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do. I'll be happy to do it," he said. "Whether that's quarterback, water boy, defensive end or equipment manager. Whatever they ask, that's what I'll do, and I'll give it my best."
With his always upbeat personality and attitude, Radley ranks up there with the numerous high-character, sacrificing, team guys that have come through this Utah program. When asked how he manages to always have a smile on his face or an encouraging word for a teammate or to keep preparing day in and day out with little reward, his answer was simple.
"I love this game," he said.
Of course, nothing is ever just that simple, and Radley expanded.
"I love this game, and I get to go out and play it every day. I have a chance to play, and there are maybe millions of people out there who would give anything to have that chance, or to be where we are, in our shoes," Radley reflected. "People with health problems, or someone who just didn't get a shot to play in college or whatever. So I just take it all as a blessing from God, and I try not to forget that, and how lucky I am."
Radley's work, and attitude are beginning to show dividends, as in 2012 he has started to emerge, starting back in spring camp, which was no small feat, considering senior running back John White's role on the team. Making it more difficult was the emergence of redshirt freshman Jarrell Oliver and the arrival of a big-time JUCO back inKelvin York.
Prior to York's arrival, the 2012 picture looked promising for the eager Radley to earn playing time, instead, he was involved in a three man battle.
How did he respond?
"I love it! The level of competition is so high right now, and Kelvin and Jarrell have pushed me harder than I imagined," Radley exclaimed during Utah's 2012 spring camp. "It's been exciting to push myself and kind of up my commitment and focus. It will only make me better."
Oliver, who also benefitted from the increased competition, earned his opportunity early in the season, and fell short. Behind White, the running back situation has been a bit of a revolving door, as no one has performed with any consistency until York emerged in the Utes' last two games.
Junior fullback/tailback Karl Williams has been in the conversation from time to time, but so far, his role has been to block ahead of White or York. Equally driven, Williams joined the fraternity of Radley and Oliver bent on hard work and capitalizing on any opportunity to show what they could do back in spring camp.
As much as Radley, his opportunity could also come in the very near future, as Whittingham mentioned his name as a potential candidate for some work on game day.
For Radley, however, the door swings wide open Saturday, allowing him onto the stage in a crucial, must-win game versus Washington State. The open door represents Radley's best shot to date to earn an expanded role. He has the mind-set and he's put in the work. All that's left to do is execute, and make the most of the opportunities he's given, which is exactly what he's done through his life up to this moment.