Finding His Niche Hayden Furey: A Walk-On Story

Being deemed a “value adder” in the first season of a young collegiate football career is an impressive compliment for any student-athlete, but for current sophomore and walk-on Hayden Furey, it is just a testament to the work ethic he picked up at a young age.

Utah fans know Furey as a tenacious special teams player and an up-and-comer in the linebackers room, but his first experience with football came on the other side of the ball.

“I started playing football in the second grade, just so I could play with all of my friends,” he said. “I actually originally started out playing quarterback though.”

Furey and his family moved to Saratoga Springs, Utah from Boise, Idaho when he was younger, immediately finding their niche. Raised a Boise State fan, it didn’t take long for Furey and his family to find a new hometown team though.

“When we moved to Utah, we bought football season tickets to Utah and have been fans ever since,” Furey said.

Furey grew up in Saratoga Springs with three brothers and friends, spending time at the lake, playing sports, building forts – and with three brothers, staying active was definitely never an issue.

“Growing up with three brothers was definitely hard because we were all very competitive,” he said. “We played a lot of football and basketball in the park behind our house.”

That competitiveness that he learned from his family helped propel his passion for sports, something he also credits his father for.

“I would say that I take after my dad the most,” Furey said. “He also played the same sports at me as well as the same positions.”

His love of sports was evident while growing up, participating in every sport that he could. Even though he ultimately decided football was the sport he wanted to pursue, his experience playing competitive basketball is something he will never forget.

“As I got older, the only sport besides football that I was involved in was basketball,” he said. “Basketball was a great experience for me. I played for my high school, and on a club team with a lot of my friends. On my club team, we would get to go play in tournaments in Australia and China, which was really exciting.”

When it came to deciding where he wanted to go to college, football played a large part into his decision. Making the decision for student-athletes can be hard, but for Furey it was all about one thing – the right fit.

“After my senior year, I had a few scholarship offers from smaller schools and some walk-on opportunities from some bigger programs,” he said.

“My parents helped me the most. I know that they want the best for me and they gave me a lot of good advice throughout the process. I wouldn’t have made it where I am now if it wasn’t for their help.”

Like most prospective student-athletes, Furey took college visits and started to weigh his options, but after his time at the U., the decision became clear. He made the decision to walk-on with the Utes.

“I wanted to be a part of this program and I was willing to work to show that I belong here,” he said. “I could tell on my visit that the team was like one big family and that the coaches really care about the players.”

As a true freshman in 2019, Furey earned his chance to take the field. He saw action in five games, becoming a strong special teams player for the Utes.

“In the beginning of fall camp, I vividly remember Coach Whittingham talking about how you have to earn your spot on the plane,” Furey said. “Right there, I made the goal to make that travel roster. To be able to accomplish that and be able to contribute on special teams was unbelievable."

Furey’s work ethic and determination didn’t go unnoticed by his position coach as Colton Swan saw Furey progress throughout the year.

“Hayden exemplifies exactly what we’re looking for from our walk-on program here at Utah,” Swan said. “Since the day he joined our team, he has shown not only a yearning to be the best person he can be, but also growth at an exponential rate from a football prospective.”

“This is a player who is not only great for the fabric of our culture as it relates to my position room, but the overall morale of our locker room. Not only does our coaching staff have a great appreciation for Hayden, but the players absolutely love him.”

– Colton Swan

Furey has added depth to the linebackers room and has made an immediate impact for the Utes on and off the field. Even though Furey has always had a strong desire to better himself, he credits his teammates for helping him through his first year.

“My favorite part about my freshman year was making friends with all of my teammates,” he said. “All of them treated me like family as soon as I got there, and the older guys really helped me to push myself to get better and learn the playbook.”

"The team chemistry is the best here. I consider everyone on the team my brother and they treat me the same way. They treat us all the same, whether you are a walk-on or on scholarship, you get the same support.”

With the 2020 season quickly approaching, Furey is looking forward to getting back on the field with his teammates. And while he is looking forward to fall camp and getting back to the grind, he has his eyes set on that home opener.

“I love game day at the U.,” he said. “Getting to run out of the tunnel with all of the screaming fans and the fireworks – it gives me chills. Being able to go out there and play the sport that I love is amazing. Nothing beats that.”