Wednesday, April 8, 2020

BYU hires Harvey Unga as running backs coach replacing AJ Steward

BYU football head coach Kalani Sitake announced the hiring of Harvey Unga as running backs coach. Unga, a former BYU Cougar running back, spent the past four years working for the football program as a graduate assistant coach on BYU’s offensive staff. He will replace AJ Steward.

“I am excited to announce Harvey Unga as our running backs coach,” Sitake said. “Harvey is a great young coach who was an elite player for BYU and is an extremely humble person. He knows the game, relates well to the players and has done an outstanding job the past four years on our staff. We are excited to have him step into this role and know he will excel in helping the young men in our program learn, grow and develop.”

Unga also expressed his excitement to step into the new role.

“It has been a dream of mine to coach at BYU and also coach the position I played,” Unga said. “I’m grateful to Tom Holmoe, Brian Santiago, Kalani Sitake, coach (Jeff) Grimes and the staff for their trust in allowing me to take on this role. It is humbling. The boys on the team have all been supportive of me, and I can’t wait to help them achieve their goals,” he said.

The Provo native is the only BYU player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Unga finished his collegiate career in 2009 as the Cougars’ all-time leading rusher, totaling 3,455 rushing yards over his time at BYU, but his rushing record was taken over by Jamaal Williams in 2016 during Unga’s first year as a graduate assistant for BYU.

While at BYU, Unga started off his collegiate time redshirting in 2006. In 2007, Unga earned Freshman All-America honors. He tallied 1,227 rushing yards, setting the Mountain West Conference freshman record and was named the MWC Freshman of the Year. Unga added 655 receiving yards in 2007, finishing the season with 1,840 all-purpose yards. He shattered the previous freshman record of 1,328 all-purpose yards set in 2002.

In 2008, Unga ran for 1,132 yards and 11 touchdowns while adding four receiving scores and 309 yards. He earned Sophomore All-America Team honorable mention by College Football News. 

In his final season in 2009, Unga topped the 1,000-yard mark for the third time with 1,087 yards and another 11 touchdowns, earning his third consecutive MWC all-conference selection.

Unga finished his time at BYU with 3,455 rushing yards, 36 rushing touchdowns, 1,085 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns.

Unga is still No. 2 in career rushing yards at BYU, No. 2 in rushing attempts (696), No. 2 in total touchdowns (45), No. 5 in scoring (272) and No. 4 in all-purpose yards (4,540).

Unga declared for NFL Supplemental Draft in 2010. He worked out for 20 NFL teams before being selected by the Chicago Bears and playing with them from 2010-2013. Unga would later sign with the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014 where he concluded his NFL career.

Unga earned a bachelor’s degree in recreation management from BYU in 2012 and will complete a master’s of public administration this year at the BYU Marriott School of Business.

His wife, Keilani, played basketball at BYU and just completed her first season as an assistant basketball coach at Utah Valley University. They have four children, Jackson, Leila, Makai and Naomi. Unga said he was thankful to his family for supporting him in his new role.

“Above all, I’m thankful to my Heavenly Father and especially thank my wife and family for their love and support that make it all possible,” he said.

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