By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Shane Marshall & Kurt Johnson
His last name just screams success. You hear “Covey” and you just expect excellence to follow, and with Timpview High quarterback Britain Covey, that is what you get.
At one time, Covey had his eye on medical school, but recent experiences with a large-scale fundraising project for Sub for Santa have him thinking more about going into business. In the end, he might change directions, as he does so well on the football field, and move from the gridiron to the stage.
“No one outside of my family and good friends knows I love musicals,” Covey said. “I’ve been in a couple of musicals when I was younger, until seventh or eighth grade. I would love to be in Les Mis, but I don’t quite have the voice for it.”
Assuming he stays on target as an athlete, Covey has created an opportunity for himself at a school that has yet to be selected to compete as a scholarship football player. It’s not likely that he will move to the next level as a quarterback, but his skill set cannot be ignored.
“He’s going to translate to a return specialist and a receiver, an inside guy that can be bouncing all around and he’s going to be very good at it,” said Timpview head coach Cary Whittingham. “We laser-timed him and I believe it was a mid 4.4, I think a 4.44 or 4.45. That’s fast, but laterally, I haven’t seen anyone that is as fast as him.”
So, what is the story behind the super speed and lateral quickness that Covey uses to elude even the state’s most talented defenders?
“I would say I have good anticipation,” Covey said. “Honestly a huge factor in my being able to run so well is watching my brothers play when I was growing up. You can have a guy that’s fast and quick, but if he doesn’t know how to run, he’s not as effective. You can have a guy that’s slow, but if he knows how to run, he’s effective. If you can put both of those together, speed and quickness as well as the ability to run, that just blows everyone out of the water.”
Part of it is genetics, he says, but the rest comes from study and learning how he can be more productive and effective. When you’re 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, you aren’t blessed with typical quarterback size, so the Timpview signal caller takes full advantage of what he does have.
“My family was blessed with speed and quickness and I guess I’ve watched enough football that I know how to run well,” Covey said. “A lot of it is angles. I think it’s just a feel. I think sometimes people think you can’t do things, like cut back all the way across the field, so they don’t try. When I watch film I say to myself ‘why couldn’t I cut back there?’ And then, in the game the next time, I’ll do it and it will work and then everybody is asking ‘How’d he do that?’ and the reality is no one else tries it.”
The Coveys have always been quarterbacks. Britain’s uncle Sean, who played the position at Brigham Young University, was a star quarterback at Provo High, and his two older brothers, Stephen and Christian, preceded him as Thunderbird passers.
“I would say there is an unwritten expectation (that I would be a quarterback) in my family, but my brothers made it clear to me that you do what you want to do,” Britain said. “If you don’t want to play football, it’s totally fine. It’s nice to have a family that’s open to anything and totally supportive.”
But Britain did want to play football and he really wanted to be the Timpview quarterback, even when it did not look like it would happen. At the beginning of his junior year, he was used very much the way Whittingham suggests he will be used in college, as a slot receiver and a kick returner, and he had success.
“We were trying to feel our way through about three guys, trying to see who was going to be the quarterback,” Whittingham said, “knowing that if Britain wasn’t going to be the quarterback, he would feel real comfortable returning kicks and returning punts and doing those kind of things, so that’s the way he started the season. After the first two games, we moved kids to places where they needed to be.”
Covey had a different feeling, but he was most concerned with being the player his coach and his team needed him to be.
“I wanted to be a quarterback for sure, watching both of my brothers,” Covey said. “There’s just something about the quarterback position that lets you use leadership skills, lets you use your knowledge. Also, it’s just a lot easier to run from the quarterback position than it is from the running back position. You’re a threat in so many ways.
“I was just focused on what I could do to help out the team. I remember, by the second week of playing receiver, I got really frustrated because I wasn’t able to run the offense. I would see formations the defense was doing from receiver and I’d want to audible, but I couldn’t because I was a receiver. I thought to myself there would be a time I would be playing quarterback.”
Covey returned kicks for touchdowns in the first two games of the 2013 season, and he scored on long pass plays in the Thunderbirds’ opener against Sky View as the team found ways to get him the ball in space. But, in Week 2, after he housed the opening kickoff against Pleasant Grove, the Vikings double-teamed him and the Timpview offense sputtered.
“That was frustrating to me because I was calling audibles from the receiver position like seeing ‘this guy’s got one-on-one coverage because there are two guys on me, change to a post.’ But, being a receiver, you can’t execute it,” Covey said.
With an injury impacting junior quarterback Isaiah Holloway’s ability to continue at the position, a change was made and Covey found himself playing quarterback. Once he started making dynamic plays all over the field, he was there to stay.
While his running captures a lot of the headlines, Covey is most excited about his ability to throw the ball. He says he much prefers a 300-yard passing performance to a 200-yard rushing game.
“I think there’s a little pride in that because I love when people tell me I can’t throw,” Covey said. “I’ll go out there and prove them wrong. It’s really hard to game plan for. You want to have a spy, you want to have a game plan for my running, but that leaves you man-on-man and I’ll take my receivers against anyone any day.”
Timpview’s opponents have certainly experienced what Covey describes. He is very difficult to defend, especially when he is throwing the ball well.
“Covey is a very good runner,” said Salem Hills head coach Joel Higginson. “You’re hoping you can get him to throw a little more, but against us, he was money. He was on target, his guys were on stride.”
This season, Covey has run for more than 1,400 yards and passed for more than 2,000. He completes nearly 70 percent of his passes, both this season and over the course of his career. His impressive stat line also includes close to 50 touchdowns in 2014, and more than 90 over the past two campaigns.
“I love having a high completion percentage because I feel so confident back there,” Covey said. “I watch a ton of film and when I get back there, I just simplify things – this read, this read, run. It makes it a lot easier.
“As for the arm strength, last year I didn’t have the greatest arm strength because when I got thrown in at quarterback, I threw out my arm the very first week because I hadn’t played quarterback for a month. This year, I feel like I’ve got my arm strength back. I’m not Austin Kafentzis. I can’t hit a 40-yard comeback in the pocket. I’m going to have to roll to it, but I’m comfortable with all the throws we have to make in our offense.”
It’s that comfort that makes everyone else in the state nervous when they see Covey coming. In the 2014 postseason opener against East, Whittingham showed how far he will go to get the ball into his playmaker’s hands. With the T-Birds struggling to score points, he put his quarterback in the game as a punt returner.
Then, with Timpview facing a fourth-and-12 inside its own 20-yard-line, Covey was in punt formation, but he did not kick the ball. It was the third quarter of a seven-point game and the speedy Covey took off as soon as he caught the snap. Before the Leopards could react, he had picked up a huge first down.
The playoffs is also the time the Thunderbirds break out all the stops on offense.
“We’re going to show all of the things we’ve been working on throughout the season,” Covey said. “Coach Bateman, Coach Van Orden, they’re the master schemers. Once playoffs hit, they just pull out a whole new playbook and it’s awesome.”
Covey actually sees size as one of his advantages, at least most of the time.
“Some people view my size as a disadvantage, but if I were to view it that way, what good does that do me?” Covey said. “So I view it as an advantage, and it really has been that to me. I would not be as good side-to-side if I was a little taller. I have a low center of gravity because of my body type. I like being small. The only problem is there are some girls I can’t ask out because they’re a little bit taller than me.”
What’s next for Britain Covey, once he finishes high school? He hasn’t decided yet if he will head straight out to a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or if he will play a year of college football first.
“Where do I want to play? What system do I want to play in? That’s going to be a big factor in my decision,” Covey said. “Do they use the slot receiver? Do the coaches use their personnel well? Could I see them using me? And also, Gabe (Reid). Where Gabe goes will be a factor in my decision. He’s my best friend. We’d like to room together. That’d be cool.”
He does believe that coming from a football family, and most recently a Timpview football family, has always been a blessing for him.
“My brother Christian was incredible at basketball and at football,” Covey said. “I just loved watching my brother Stephen play football. That 2004 team, that Timpview offense was the most dynamic in history. I thought Timpview was like the NFL when I was eight years old. It’s so awesome. My brothers still love Timpview football. My brothers will be watching film as much as I am and sending me screen shots of film and saying ‘what if we ran this play against this?’ It’s so funny and it’s nice. It’s great to have brothers who have come through here.”