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Utahns In The NFL: Former Utah Utes safety Eric Weddle defies odds with Chargers

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Former Utah Utes star and current San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle is a winner, pure and simple. He won in high school, he helped the Utes bust the BCS, win the Fiesta Bowl and go undefeated -- and won an uphill battle securing a starting spot on the Chargers in his rookie NFL season. So his interception on Sunday, December 22 to help secure San Diego's 26-13 win over Oakland would come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his career.

Sure, by definition Weddle's just 5-foot-11 inches tall and just a hair over 200 pounds soaking wet -- relatively short and small for someone playing in an NFL secondary. But in the course of his career, he has defied -- and continues to defy -- those tall odds that prevent most players from taking his route.

Keep this in mind: the average career of an NFL player is 6.86 years according to an NFL.com study in 2011 -- which makes Weddle's pro career even more remarkable. Whittle the number down to players who are on active 53-man rosters -- the average becomes 4.3 years.

Weddle, now in his seventh season with the Chargers, is not only shattering the short-term average playing career of an NFL baller -- he's already surpassed long-term employment standards as well. This is a guy who was supposedly not good enough in high school to get a scholarship at any college -- except Utah. His story is one of perseverance and dedication; of working harder than others, and of sacrifice.

All Weddle has done since strapping on a helmet, shoulder pads and uniform is make people eat their words -- and write thousands of tiny characters expressing praise and above all, respect for his abilities on and off the football field. He's inspired an auto-biography, penned by veteran Deseret News sportswriter and author Trent Toone, entitled "No Excuses, No Regrets: The Eric Weddle Story," -- now available at Amazon.com.

In the present the Chargers push toward a playoff berth at 8-7 overall and you have to like their chances going into a pivotal Week 17 game against the Kansas City Chiefs -- and former Utes teammate Alex Smith.

If San Diego defeats Kansas City -- and Miami and Baltimore lose -- then the Chargers are playoff bound. In the meantime, listen to what Chargers head coach Mike McCoy -- himself a Utes quarterback legend in the early 1990s -- has to say about his Pro Bowler.

“The way he practices, the way he communicates during practice ... you see that translate in the success he has during games. He’s back there, making a lot of calls, giving little reminders coming out of the huddle, or he sees certain formations. The things he says to the players, it’s the same way when he is out in practice," said McCoy in an article on December 24 to UTSanDiego.com.

“He just shows up to work every day and does his job. In the offseason program, he is one of the first guys (there) in the morning. Same thing during the season. He’s here all the time.”

Weddle's interception Sunday against the Raiders gives him 18 total in a career in which he has also averaged over 80 tackles per year. He also has 101 tackles this season, the most for him since his 2008 campaign.

When most players his age seem to begin a downward spiral towards retirement, Weddle looks like he's just getting started. And in week 16 of this NFL season -- when so many former Utes, BYU Cougars and Utah State Aggies struggled to get the win they so desperately needed -- Weddle came through with a huge play for his San Diego Chargers team, something he's been doing his entire career.

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