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Provo • Technically, BYU defensive end Harvey Langi has already faced his former team.
Langi made four unassisted tackles from his linebacker position last year in BYU's 35-28 Las Vegas Bowl loss to the Utes.
But Saturday's game will be "different" for the former all-everything high school star who enrolled at Utah a month after he graduated early from Bingham High. This time, the rivalry game is at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where upwards of 40,000 red-clad fans surely haven't forgotten his transfer to their hated rival after a church mission to Tampa, Fla., in the summer of 2014.
"Oh, it is going to be fun," Langi said Monday, two days after making three tackles in his new position, defensive end, during BYU's 18-16 win over Arizona.
"It is the rivalry game and I am just as excited as the fans, maybe a little bit more," Langi said, warming up to the topic. "So, my feelings for them is just go out there and have a fun game. They are ready to come out. We are ready to come out. They have their nice red jerseys, we have our nice royal blue jerseys. It will be a fun little game to watch."
Although he talked in September of 2014 about receiving plenty of vitriolic, hate-filled emails, Twitter messages and Facebook posts from Utah fans when he transferred, Langi, now a senior, says there is no extra motivation for him in BYU's first game at Rice-Eccles since the 24-21 loss in 2012. He granted precious few interviews his sophomore and junior seasons because he wanted to stay out of the line of fire, friends said. He even declined interview requests leading up to last December's bowl game.
Recently voted a team captain by his teammates, he's talking now, but cautiously, by his standards.
"It is just the next game," he said. "Of course, we are all excited for the in-state rivalry game, but in my mind I just feel like it is Week Two, and it is too early to start puffing my chest and start saying things way before the game. I think work will show what we can do on Saturday."
Langi is the only player on BYU's roster who has experienced a win in the rivalry game, many Ute fans have pointed out on social media websites this week. Indeed, he carried the ball four times for 33 yards in Utah's 54-10 blowout of BYU in 2011, the only game in the past five all Utah wins decided by more than seven points.
"I have learned that [Utah] has great athletes," Langi said. "They are very fast. They have playmakers on both sides of the ball, athletes on both sides of the ball."
Still, Langi reiterated Monday he has no regrets about making the switch. He has blossomed at BYU, he said, progressing toward a degree, getting married last spring and emerging as a bonafide star on defense. After a rocky sophomore year, he was second on the team in tackles last year with 68, made two interceptions against UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, and made several postseason All-Independent teams.
"Yeah, it has been a long journey," he said. " I just feel like everyone has their own journey to their senior year, and once you get to your senior year you can't really look back and change time. We are all in our positions because of the choices we have decided to take, and I feel like for me all the decisions I have decided to do to this point have been good decisions, and the best decisions for me so far. That's where I am at. I really can't say anything else, because I have decided what I have decided to be here."
Langi counts Utah offensive lineman Isaac Asiata and defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei, another Bingham product, among his best friends.
And he still admires head coach Kyle Whittingham and other Utah coaches who were there when he was, despite their initial inclination to deny a release for his desired transfer back in 2014. Ultimately, he didn't need their release to receive BYU financial aid in the fall of 2014 because he did not sign a national letter of intent in February of 2011 due to having enrolled in January of that year.
"Coach Whittingham over there does what he does, and he is a great coach, and they have a great team," Langi said.
Harvey Langi's journey
• Rushed for more than 4,000 yards at Bingham High, earned 5A MVP honors and graduated in December of 2010 before enrolling at Utah in January of 2011
• Got just 13 carries for 70 yards for Utah in 2011, was moved to defense in spring of 2012, then left on church mission to Tampa, Fla., that summer
• Announced in summer of 2014 upon returning from mission that he was transferring to BYU, citing personal reasons and the desire to live according to BYU's Honor Code
• After playing linebacker for two seasons in Provo, switched to defensive end and made three tackles in a 18-16 win over Arizona