Sport means a lot to many people. They are a great way to relax and enjoy some free time. For Ty Whitaker, a medical student at the University of Utah, this is truer now than ever.
Whitaker grew up around football, lacrosse and wrestling in his hometown of Rancho Santa Margarita, California in Orange County. Although he stopped playing football when he entered high school, he has continued to play flag football as a hobby and as a way to have fun with his friends.
Whitaker spent half his undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University in Hawaii and the other half at BYU’s main campus in Provo, where he studied microbiology. He played on club flag football teams at both locations. After graduation, he entered the U for medical school.
“Medical school is like, you just go where you come in,” Whitaker said. “I went to three medical schools, but in the end I chose U just because I was already up here. i like utah It’s a good place. The U is a really good school. It also helps me settle in quite a bit.”
Life as a medical student is not easy. Like many here at the U, Whitaker has a very busy schedule these days.
“I just had a baby in December, so my schedule is a bit more complex,” Whitaker said. “I wake up at 6 a.m., get ready, do some stuff, work out, whatever. Classes start at 8am, I’m usually in class from 8am to noon. I will study, research [or] Work in some of the student run clinics. On a day with just homework and stuff, I’ll be done by five or six. On days when I have a clinic or research, it’s sometimes later. And [I] do it again the next day.”
One way Whitaker spent his free time while in college was competing on intramural flag football teams at all of his stints. Whitaker grew up enjoying a variety of sports, including soccer.
“I played [football] all grow up. I quit high school… My first Pop Warner football team was when I was six years old or so. I played until I was 14 or 15,” Whitaker said. “I would just play [flag football] for fun with my friends after I quit playing league football.”
Whitaker won both BYU-Hawaii and BYU intramural championships. However, he has not yet managed to keep the dynasty going and win a championship here at U.
“Throughout college, like every year, I’ve had a flag football team and it’s fun — I like to play sports,” Whitaker said. “I kind of have a handle on the med school schedule. I decided to find some of my buddies who were also a bit athletic in med school. We formed a team and ended up recruiting some other people because we didn’t have the players.”
Despite not being able to win the championship last season, it was still a strong season for Whitaker’s team. They were seeded in the top 3 in the playoffs, losing in the first round to the championship-winning team.
Whitaker is just one example of how popular football is at U. Rice-Eccles Stadium. As of July 2022, every home football game since the home game against the Pittsburgh Panthers in 2010 has been sold out. A record-breaking 53,609 fans were in attendance to watch the Utes’ dramatic 43-42 victory over the USC Trojans on October 15.
For many U students like Whitaker, football and other sports are a big part of the college experience. Whether they fill out the Mighty Utah Student Section on game days, compete in intramural sports, or even compete on an official Utah track team, sports play an important part in the years of many Utah students.
Whitaker is currently in his sophomore year at U med school and hopes to go into ophthalmology after graduating from U.