SALT LAKE CITY — Nate Orchard has come a long way since he led Highland High School’s football team to a state championship in 2010.
“To me it just seems like yesterday,” Orchard said. “Especially over the summer, I went over to my high school to see all the guys and to see my high school coaches. Those are good memories.”
Now three years later, he’s a returning starter on the Utah football team at defensive end. He earned all PAC-12 honorable mention honors as a sophomore, and the Utes are hoping for bigger things this season.
“He needs to be an impact player for us this year,” said Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham.
“I’m at the point to where I don’t know just my position, but what the other guys on the field should be doing in their assignments,” Orchard said. “Being here three years you kind of get the hang of things.”
It might take the rest of us awhile to get used to his new last name. He changed it from Fakahafua to Orchard during the offseason.
“I’ve been with the Orchard family since I was 12 years old,” he said. “I’m happy I changed my name to be with them. They’re my family, and my family, of course, understands and they still love me. I’m happy I did it for me and my wife and my family. I have a little girl on the way, so I’m excited about that. She should be due sometime this week.”
And when his wife goes into labor, he’ll be there.
“Obviously, when the time comes we’ll cut him loose to go experience that,” Whittingham said. “We’ll try out best to make sure he’s able to be there.”
“I know coach Whitttingham will let me go and see her,” Orchard said. “But I’ll try not to stay too long. I’ll just come on back and get ready for practice.”