Pass the Snacks: Utes are one big family
Utah defensive end Hunter Dimick, left, and linebacker Pita Taumoepenu (50) react in front of Michigan wide receiver Jehu Chesson (86) after the Utah recovered a fumble during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. Utah defeated Michigan 26-10. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Admittedly, it’s not exactly flattering.
But it’s a darn good nickname because it conveys so much and above everything else it’s fun.
Inside the University of Utah football family they call Hunter Dimick, “Snacks.”
The sophomore defensive end, who played high school ball for the Syracuse Titans, is a big dude – he’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 266 pounds – so a nickname like that is expected. After all, you don’t get to Dimick’s size by skipping meals. You also don’t achieve Dimick’s success (he ranks No. 7 in the country, averaging 1.13 sacks per game) without a lot of athletic skill, hard work and a great support system.
That’s the thing around the U of U football program. The Utes are 6-2 with one of the Pac-12’s best defenses and one of the country’s best pass rushes (Dimick and teammate Nate Orchard have combined for 21 sacks so far this season). They’re having solid success this season because they’re talented, well prepared and they’re a tight-knit family, not just on defense or offense or special teams but … everywhere.
Hence, nicknames like “Snacks.”
“I like to eat a lot so coach (Kyle Whittingham) decided to throw in the nickname Snacks at one of our team meetings and unfortunately it stuck,” Dimick explained. “Around here I’m known as Snacks, it’s kind of the inside joke.”
When you’re a part of a family you’re going to get a nickname and you’re definitely going to be a part of some inside jokes, so yes, the Utes are a family. To one extent or another all college football teams are families, so in that way the Utes aren’t different from other programs in the state and across the country. Being a part of something bigger and pulling together for a common goal brings people together and it’s clear Whittingham has developed that in his program.
Dimick, who on Monday fielded questions from reporters after Whittingham’s weekly press conference, responded with a sheepish smile when asked about his nickname. He wasn’t offended by the reference to his size or eating habits, he was happy to show he’s a part of another great family.
Lest anyone think otherwise, Dimick isn’t a big double-up-on-dessert guy. He’s a big fella but that’s more the result of strength, training and gobbling up lots of green, leafy vegetables.
Apparently “Popeye” was taken so Whittingham went with “Snacks.”
“I don’t eat dessert, I eat healthy. I eat more spinach than anyone here, you can ask,” Dimick said. “No, it’s just kind of the joke. Coach Whitt throws in a nickname with probably, I’d say, 10 people that you guys don’t know about yet that will probably surface eventually, hopefully – so I’m not the only one.”
And then Dimick added the most critical sentence of the conversation.
“It’s just kind of one of the fun family things we’ve got going around here,” he said.
When he stands in front of the media or when he’s patrolling the Utes’ sidelines, Whittingham doesn’t necessarily come off as a wild and crazy guy. In fact, he seems just the opposite: serious, stern, square-jawed and semi-robotic.
But those who know him say he’s actually very funny. Behind the scenes he’s pretty good at keeping things lively and loose in the locker room.
In the middle of a challenging Pac-12 season in which the Utes don’t have any throwaway games, tensions can run high and moods can get, well … moody. That’s why it’s important to, No. 1, have a little fun and No. 2, create a family atmosphere.
Little things like nicknames help in that regard.
“If you hate the people that you’re working with everyday, then it’s gonna be a long year and an unproductive one, most likely,” Dimick said. “Coaches do an excellent job. We’re all best friends, we’re all hanging out all the time, regardless of position group.”
Offense, defense, special teams … it doesn’t matter. Sure they struggle, sure they fail; they disagree and they don’t always communicate. They’re a football team and all teams deal with those issues.
And they’re also a family.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo