An Unlikely Ute Walk-on

He’s from Draper and he wears #36

On October 24, 2015, Mackay Dunn sat in the stands at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum watching the Utah Utes get thumped by USC, ending their run at a perfect season. But Dunn was not upset, he was inspired. He had been avidly following the Utes every game and at that moment he had an epiphany. He knew he could play with these guys.

“I saw the other players and thought that I could easily compete with them.”

In December, he emailed the coaches and also talked to some of the players he knew. Austin Lee and Harrison Hanley encouraged him to go for it. They thought he could do it too.

Mackay Dunn was a high school standout. He spent the majority of his childhood in Draper and started playing football as a gremlin when he was eight years old. He played running back the majority of the time and in his sophomore year, he switched to cornerback. One of his greatest football moments in high school was in a game against Jordan when they threw it deep, close to the end zone, and Dunn intercepted the ball by making a diving catch, clinching a win for his team.

When he graduated, Dunn had offers to play at some of the smaller state schools, but opted to go to Utah State University in order to get a better education. He played on the team for then head coach Gary Andersen (who is now the head coach at Oregon State), but it only lasted a few weeks.

“It just wasn’t a good fit. But it did help me to make the decision to go on a mission.”

Initially, Mackay was not really considering a mission. However, because he did not continue with the team, his focus changed and he knew he needed to serve. Mackay was called to the Buenos Aires, Argentina mission.

“I was surprised most by how easy it was to be dedicated to it and to follow the rules. I realized why I was doing it and it was easy to be obedient.”

Dunn flourished while he served in South America. It was preparation and training he never realized he would need for the next chapter of his life, the football chapter.

He returned in March 2015 and in the fall enrolled at the U, not even considering football. But the season sparked the desire in him again. With the email to the Utah coaches, Coach Fred Whittingham contacted him a little while later and offered him a walk-on tryout in February. Dunn had worked hard to get back into shape in the year he had returned from his mission and to recover from a shoulder injury. Tryouts were held at the Spence Eccles Field House. All prospective players were meticulously screened by the training staff and paperwork was completed to be compliant with the NCAA. Then it was time to hit the field.

The tryout was only 45 minutes long and trainers and a few of the players stood on the sideline to watch. Dunn did a shuttle run, jumping exercises, agility drills and the 40 yard sprint in 4.49 seconds, a blazing fast time. When the tryout was over, the prospective walk-ons huddled up and were told that if they made the team, they would get a call in the next three to four weeks.

Much to his surprise, Mackay’s phone rang on a Sunday, only five days later. He was the only walk-on who had made the team. Dunn, a high school standout at cornerback, had picked the perfect year to try out. The Utes were low on corners and Mackay Dunn’s instincts had been right. He could play with these guys.

Now that the Utes football season has started, Mackay has worked hard over the past six months, giving his life to football and schoolwork as he majors in Business Administration. Dunn says that college football life has been a great experience.

“There is great camaraderie with the team. Everyone is very nice.”

The football program is top-notch, with a positive and inclusive atmosphere. Mackay was quickly integrated into the team from the very beginning. They work hard together conditioning, practicing and studying the game, preparing for a difficult season this year in the PAC-12. Dunn will play on special teams, a great example of what you can accomplish when you work hard and just go for it.