Always in the right place: Sweat earns Daily Herald Football Valley Player of the Year
When Lehi safety Kadiyon Sweat stepped onto the field at Rice-Eccles Stadium for the 5A state championship game on Nov. 18, it was his 50th career varsity start.
Sweat earned a starting defensive role in his third game as a freshman and spent every moment thereafter showing the coaches they had made the right decision.
“Kadiyon is one of those guys who’s going to work so hard he’s going to embarrass the rest of the team if they don’t work like that,” Pioneers coach Ed Larson said. “His football IQ is really good and his leadership, not only on the field but in the locker room and in the weight room, is just phenomenal. He’s everything a coach looks for in a player and you hope you get 60 of that kind of guy on your roster.”
Sweat proved he was one-of-a-kind in 2022, spearheading a defense that surrendered just nine points per contest and posted seven shutouts. The Pioneers finished with an epic 29-26 triple overtime victory against Timpview in the 5A title game, earning Lehi its second straight state championship and an undefeated season (14-0). Sweat had 12 tackles and an interception against the Thunderbirds.
On a defense with many outstanding players, Sweat’s consistent and often spectacular effort has earned him the 2022 Daily Herald Football Player of the Year.
“I definitely feel like I’ve had an opportunity to be a strong leader on defense,” Sweat said. “Isaac (Bobby) Terrell and I have been playing varsity since our freshman year, so we built a lot of trust with the rest of the team. It’s been four years now and I’m pretty comfortable with my teammates and they are pretty comfortable with me. That’s the best way I know how to explain it. We’re a strong brotherhood built over time.”
Sweat finished the season with ten interceptions, 57 tackles (22 solo), three tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He scored four touchdowns: Two on interception returns, one on a punt return and one on offense.
Terrell, a defensive end who has committed to Washington State, is a star (10.5 sacks, 23 quarterback hurries) who demands double teams. Senior linebacker Blake Jenkins led the team in tackles with 105. Linebackers Chanse Miller (96 tackles) and Hema Katoa (94), along with cornerback Nathan Anderegg (six interceptions), are all big-time playmakers. But it’s Sweat who points the defense in the right direction.
“To have a guy like Kadiyon directing traffic back there, making sure everyone is lined up correctly, it allowed us to take some chances up front because we knew he would get everyone right,” Larson said. “Our defensive coordinator was able to dial up more pressures to give us different looks.
“Kadiyon loves the game. He’s in a position to make plays and he brings it. He’s a defensive back with a linebacker mentality. He lines up and hits you and he’s not afraid of contact. He’s just a quintessential football player.”
Sweat finished with 24 career interceptions, four defensive touchdowns and six return scores, impacting the game in many different areas.
When Sweat was in eighth grade his father, Dane, was helping with a youth weight lifting program. Dane Sweat approached Larson with the idea of giving Kadiyon and some of his classmates access to the high school weight room.
“To have non-high school kids on campus, we had to work that out legally,” Larson said. “I had a chance to meet Kadiyon then and when he came to his first camp as a freshman I said, ‘OK, this guy is going to start for us for four years.'”
Sweat said he was competing against a senior for that starting role as a freshman.
“It was difficult because he was a senior and had the upper hand. Once I got my shot out there, my main thing was I wasn’t going to wish for him to do badly. I wanted me to do good enough and play well enough to challenge him and earn it. I messed up a lot my freshman year, but you learn.”
Sweat’s unique first name was provided by his father, who was a fan of the 2002 movie “The Scorpion King.” Duane “The Rock” Johnson’s character in the movie, “The Scorpion King,” was an Akkadian Knight.
College football programs are learning Sweat’s name and more about his game. Weber State offered Sweat a scholarship before the state championship game and he’s also gotten offers from Colorado State and Utah State. He’s headed to Logan this weekend for an official visit.
“At 6-feet and 180 pounds, teams are wondering right now if he’s safety or maybe eventually a linebacker,” Larson said. “I tell them he’s just a football player who’s a culture dude for their program. He’ll do the right things.”