You can forgive former Utah Utes star Matt Asiata for having a few bad days this fall. He has had the kind of season most would like to forget. First, his father Pita was killed in a tragic car accident outside of Wendover in late October. Also, he hasn't started a game for the Minnesota Vikings all season long, paying his dues on the practice squad and on special teams. So when he was called on to start Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, Asiata didn't look at this game as being meaningless and having zero playoff implications for his team; he took the challenge head-on and finished having his best day as a pro.
With starter and future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson sitting on the sideline, Asiata made the most of his opportunity in his first NFL start.
This is not the first time that Asiata had dealt with adversity as a football player and has overcome it. After a storied career at Hunter High, a school in a western Salt Lake City suburb, he went on to play at Utah. There he was saddled with two season-ending torn ACL injuries -- despite leading his team to a stunning win over Alabama at the 2008 Sugar Bowl.
Wherever Asiata goes, it seems that the shadow of sadness isn't far behind. But, to his credit he is not the kind of person who quits -- and Sunday's breakout game was a testament to that.
With his father looking down on the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome from Heaven, Asiata put together the kind of game that would have made Dad proud. And with Asiata's family looking on in the stands, it was the type of game that the Utah star will remember for, as Vikings coach Leslie Frazier so aptly put it, "the rest of his life."
Asiata wasn't the only Ute to have a big day. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith rebounded in a big way after having several consecutive poor performances, throwing for five touchdowns.
Here is how our Utahns In The NFL stacked up in Week 15...
Matt Asiata - Minnesota Vikings - Running Back (Utah)
Asiata took advantage of his first NFL career start, running for 51 yards on 30 workmanlike carries and three touchdowns as the Vikings hammered the Philadelphia Eagles 48-30.
Asiata has featured on special teams for the Vikings all season but Sunday marked the first time he was featured in the backfield. Due to injuries to Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, Asiata got the green light from head coach Leslie Frazier, and probably caught the eye of a few NFL teams.
Asiata, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2014, used Sunday's win over the Eagies to showcase his talents to other NFL and Canadian suitors. It's pretty likely he'll get a call after what he did.
Alex Smith - Kansas City Chiefs - Quarterback (Utah)
It is time to officially welcome back Alex Smith to Utahns In The NFL -- after he left the column for a few weeks of vacation.
Now that he's back in the saddle again after a scintillating 287-yard performance that included five touchdown passes, even those gaudy numbers weren't the best part to Smith's day.
The Chiefs won 56-31 over the Oakland Raiders Sunday -- and Smith was near letter-perfect as he went 17-for-20 on the day. Kansas City is now 11-3 overall and tied for first with the Denver Broncos -- though Denver holds the tiebreaker having swept the season-series.
Eric Weddle - San Diego Chargers - Safety (Utah)
Weddle is quietly having a nice year in San Diego. The 7th year veteran out of Utah has 97 tackles on the season, tied for the second best output of his career.
His Chargers are still alive for a playoff spot with a 7-7 record and he and San Diego took care of business Sunday, winning 27-20 over the Denver Broncos. Weddle had two tackles in the win over Peyton Manning and the Broncos. (Manti Te'o added two tackles as well, for real.)
I'm sure Alex Smith made a phone call to his former teammate, thanking Weddle for keeping the Chiefs in the hunt for the AFC West division title.