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For Sione Pouha, the road back to Utah's football team began, truly, on the road.

Pouha said he was carpooling with newly hired Utah tight ends coach Lewis Powell after a recent function when Powell asked his former Utah teammate how he'd been keeping busy.

"I told him I had a lot of time on my hands, and that I'm sure glad he's up here — [that] I'll be up here a little bit and just come hang out in his office," Pouha said.

He laughed at the memory. "He kind of took that as me trying to pursue a career."

Pouha was released by the New York Jets in 2013 to clear cap space after he spent eight seasons at the core of the Big Apple defense. Now, after a dose of retirement life, he finds himself as a supremely qualified undergraduate assistant — and from an instruction standpoint, not dissimilar from Utah's position coaches.

Defensive coordinator John Pease said that after Powell persuaded Pouha to sign on last month, Kyle Whittingham told his staff: Be sure to use this guy.

"And I said, 'Hell yeah, I'll use him!'"

Pouha joked that his expectation was that he'd ensure Pease's "paper clips are organized, and that all the right papers get recycled," but Pease, who doubles as the defensive line coach, told Pouha the defensive tackles were his.

At Tuesday's practice, Pouha worked with that group in the northwest corner of the field as Pease barked lovingly at the ends 15 yards away.

The quieter Pouha, 36, urged his players to strike the dummies so hard that they'd break the sled — a habit he gained a reputation for during his time in New York.

"Come on," he said, calmly. "Let's get a new one."

The players alternated grunts and laughter.

Sophomore defensive tackle Filipo Mokofosi, who remembers watching Pouha during Utah's undefeated 2004 season, said his teammates were stunned when Pouha first walked into their meeting room.

"It was like, 'Oh, man! That's Sione Pouha!' We were all excited about that."

And "OG Sione," as Mokofisi called him, has proven he has some talent at the other end of the whistle.

Said Whittingham: "He's an excellent teacher. I've had the chance to observe him a little bit, and he's a good addition to our program."

Pease said he's gained "absolute faith" in Pouha for his natural credibility as a former NFL starter and his ability to convey what he's learned.

Coaching isn't totally new to Pouha, who graduated from East High and returned to Salt Lake to organize summer youth camps with fellow NFL stars.

And the NFL lifestyle was good preparation for this one, he said, in which he wakes up early each day to prepare not only for field and film work, but to finish up his bachelor's in sociology.

As for whether coaching factors into his long-term plans, Pouha won't say yet: "I just live the day, man, and I love every day."

But so far, all involved seem to feel it's a good fit.

The tackle sled had no comment. Twitter: @matthew_piper —

Sione Pouha

High school • Led East High from the cellar to a state championship, and named a USA Today honorable mention All-American as a senior captain during the 1996 title run.

At Utah • Played four years, starting as a junior and senior and named first-team Mountain West Conference while helping lead the Utes to an undefeated 2004 season.

In New York • Drafted in the third round of the 2005 draft, Pouha recorded 263 tackles and 4.5 sacks in eight seasons, earning a reputation as one of the NFL's strongest run-stoppers.