Family remains united despite BYU-Utah rift

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Sports rivalries can potentially pit family members, high school friends, neighbors and co-workers against each other.

However, that is not always the case. A house that is supposedly “divided” on game day can actually be united, as is the case with the Handley family.

Darren Handley played for BYU as a tight end under the reign of LaVell Edwards. His brother, Todd Handley, played for the University of Utah at the same time.

Despite playing for in-state rivals, the Handley brothers always found ways to have fun with the competition.

“We (the BYU football team) treated the game for the most part as any other,” Darren Handley said. “There was more buildup before the game from the fans and the media. A lot more interviewing and hype. My brother … would exchange notes on how the week’s prep was going. That was fun to go back and forth with him.”

The brothers could not help but support each other, even if it meant cheering against their own team.

“My junior year, I caught a pass along the Utah sidelines and turned upfield,” Darren Handley said. “The cornerback came up on me, and I ran right over the top of him and kept going. After about five more yards, they brought me down. As I looked over at the Utah sidelines, I could see my brother hopping up and down with a huge grin on his face. He was trying not to show his teammates how happy he was that I just ‘posterized’ their corner. That was fun.”

In time, Darren Handley finished his BYU football career and graduated from the university. For years to come, he would consider himself a Cougar and continue to support his team by going to the games. He never really had a need to cheer for the Utes when the rivalry came along, since his brother was not on the team anymore.

In 2013, Darren’s son, Harrison, was a highly recruited high school football player. Schools such as Stanford, Boise State, Wisconsin, BYU and Utah looked at Harrison as a potential player. Despite Darren Handley’s own love for BYU and the BYU football program, his intention was never to force his son to become a Cougar; instead, he allowed his son to make his own choice about where he wanted to play football.

“As Harrison was recruited, I wanted him to experience all of the things that I experienced,” Darren Handley said. “I wanted him to make the decision on where he would go. I was there to offer any support or answer any questions or give my opinion, when asked. He decided that Utah was the best place for him to be. I support him 100 percent in his choice.”

Once Harrison Handley made the decision to play for Utah, it took some initial effort for him to convert his family, but he was happy with his decision.

“It has been great to have the support from everyone, and especially (my dad),” Harrison Handley said. “He knows what I’m going through, because he did the same thing.”

Last season, when the rivalry came around, the Handleys did not have to choose between supporting Darren’s former team or supporting Harrison. Naturally, they could do both.

“I have to admit that I am a Cougar and will always be a Cougar,” Darren Handley said. “With that said, my family means more than anything to me. Last year Harrison redshirted but was on the sidelines for the game. I was cheering for Utah, but only because I wanted them to get to six wins so that Harrison could have the opportunity to go to a bowl game.”

Fortunately, with the two-year hiatus this season and next, the Handleys do not have to worry about picking sides. The father and son have different opinions on their reactions to the BYU-Utah game being put on pause for the next two seasons.

“It is horrible,” Harrison Handley said. “I think everyone in the state of Utah wants the game to continue. It is an exciting game. I want to play it every year. There is so much history, and it is, all in all, a great game.”

Darren is only concerned for his son and the experiences that playing BYU could bring to him. He wants everyone on both sides to know that the game is more than just being better than the other. He wants to see his former team succeed, but he wants the same thing for his son.

“I think it is a game that should be played, but not with the hatred and intensity that it has become,” Darren Handley said.

For some, the BYU-Utah rivalry separates people and pits them against each other. The Handley family is proof that a house can truly be united even if the family members play for, or cheer for, different teams.

The Handleys can still support BYU, but now, with a son playing for the Utes, they are more than happy to cheer for a second team. All Darren Handley wants is for his son to have the best experience possible with Utah.

“Utah has been very good to him, and he loves his teammates,” Darren Handley said. “Hopefully it will be a fulfilling experience for him. I just hope and pray that he will stay healthy and have a good experience and get all of his schooling paid for. As a dad, that is what is most important to me. If he ends up having a good/great career at Utah, then okay.”

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