New BYU running backs Ty’Son Williams and Emmanuel Esukpa stepped up to talk to Utah sports reporters for the first time at Cougar Media Day on Tuesday and presented themselves as confident, determined and ready to make the most of their time in Provo.
“It’s been good to be here,” Williams said. “I’m just adjusting to everything so far, taking it a day at a time.”
Esukpa added: “It’s been a smooth transition coming up here, starting to work out and making good friends with my teammates. I’m just grinding, so it’s good.”
Both of the new BYU athletes come in as graduate transfers with just one year of eligibility. The Cougars have added a few such transfers in recent years — most notably receivers Jordan Leslie and Dylan Collie — but BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said he doesn’t see it being a major element of recruiting for the team.
“I don’t think you make it a big habit to get transfers,” Sitake said. “Last year we brought in Dylan (Collie), who was a good addition to the team and helped us out with our depth. This year we feel Emmanuel and Ty’Son can do the same thing. They can allow the younger guys to get more experience and create more competition. But it’s only what is needed for our depth and our team. We don’t have the admissions or draw that would bring in any more than maybe two per year — if we even do that.”
Esukpa and Williams said it wasn’t an easy decision to choose to make a new start as Cougars.
“Coming out here on my visit allowed me to see how things work on a day-to-day basis,” said Williams, who transferred from South Carolina. “I enjoyed it. My family enjoyed it. I enjoyed the people and the academic side. I felt like I was getting everything all in one place. I just decided to come here.”
Esukpa came from Rice, so it was a big move for him to elect to go to Provo.
“I put so much blood, sweat and tears into Rice University, not only in friendships but in the brotherhood out there,” Esukpa said. “It was hard but I thought it was best for me and my family. I just had to do what I had to do. I came here because there are a lot of good things happening here and I just wanted to be a part of it.”
Both running backs know that they are going to be battling for playing time against guys who were already at BYU, including sophomore Lopini Katoa (the leading rusher for the Cougars in 2018 with 423 yards and eight TDs).
“We all work out,” Williams said. “I like all the running backs. The only thing we are worried about right now is getting better.”
Katoa said he likes the added competition because it means all of the running backs are forced to raise their game.
“The two guys coming in are good athletes but they are good guys too,” Katoa said. “They are super-humble and they work hard. They fit in really well. It raises everyone’s level of competition. It helps anybody. You don’t get relaxed. You’ve always got to work hard. It also means you have depth. We can go all out and we can have subs. We can do a lot of things with a lot of running backs.”
Williams said he takes pride in being a running back who can excel in different elements of the game.
“I just want to be an all-around back and be able to do it all,” Williams said. “I don’t want to be limited. Anytime I step on the field, I want to be able to enhance the offense.”
Esukpa, on the other hand, said he has been slotted as a power back for most of his career but is looking to be more well-rounded.
“I feel like I have a lot of good football left in me,” he said. “I have a lot to learn. I’m never going to be perfect but I’m still striving to be. I’ve always been a bigger back but I’m trying to be a bigger back, someone you can throw in there and trust with anything.”
Both Williams and Esukpa said the admissions process took time and patience but they are glad to be enrolled and part of the team now.
“It feels great to be here and have the BYU on my chest,” Esukpa said. “It means something. It feels good.”