University of Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham is best known for last year's undefeated season, Sugar Bowl victory and second-place finish in the AP poll.
But Whittingham's team is proving to be winning on more than just the football field.
When 5-year-old Keagan Gonsalves, who has high-functioning autism, spent three weeks recently at the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute for evaluations, he was constantly exposed to the block U logo all over campus and became a huge fan. He even memorized the Ute fight song.
So his mother, Haley Gonsalves, wanted to give him a treat by letting him see the football team up close.
She called the athletic department to see if there was a designated day when the public could meet the team and get pictures, and she told them about her son. She was told there isn't such an event, but Whittingham's assistant contacted her to invite her and Keagan to team practice Sept. 8.
She was hoping to get one or two autographs on a football they brought and, perhaps, a picture with some players.
Instead, when practice ended, every player and coach on the team stopped by to see Keagan. Most kneeled down to his level and spent time talking and joking with him. Defensive back Robert Johnson gave Keagan his wrist bands. Offensive lineman Zane Beadles let Keagan wear his helmet.
Then, after meeting with the media, Whittingham came over and spent a great deal of time with Keagan, Haley said. In all, the team spent about 45 minutes with the young man, who was thrilled, his mother said.
He walked away with many autographs and pictures.
Trying to catch up » When I mentioned recently about the tens of thousands of dollars the poor-schmuck lobbyists are expected to come up with to boost the campaign coffers and the egos of our esteemed legislators, I was gently chided by a Republican friend because I listed only Republican fundraisers.
And he's right. Democratic legislators try to stuff their greedy little mitts in the lobbyists' pockets as much as the Republicans. And I did find two recent Democratic fundraisers: Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, had his annual golf tournament last Wednesday with sponsorships running at $1,000 and $700, and individual players expected to cough up $175 each. And the Senate Democrats had their "Western Fund-raiser" at Snowbird last month with sponsorship opportunities running at $7,500, $5,000, $3,000 and $1,000, and individuals paying $200 for adults and $75 for kids.
The problem is that it's harder to track down the Dem fundraisers if you're not on the mailing list because they still mostly send their invites through snail mail, while the Republicans use e-mail.
Poor Dems. They're probably still counting chads.
Paul Rolly is a political columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org