Cam recovers from injury and is ready for his final appearance in the Big 12

LAS VEGAS – Cam Rising feels renewed.

The Utah quarterback, who hasn’t stepped on a football field in over a year and a half, is back to lead a team with championship aspirations into the Big 12 and a new era of college football.

“It was a tough decision for me,” Rising said Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days about returning for his seventh season. “When you’re not healthy, you have to take it as it is, and I really thought there was some meat left on the bone.”

“We have a chance to get to the College Football Playoffs and win them.”

Big 12 Media Days Football

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising answers questions from the media on Tuesday during the Big 12 NCAA College Football Media Days in Las Vegas.

Lucas Peltier, Associated Press

The Utes are considered clear favorites to win the Big 12 in their first season in the conference and were voted to top the regular season in the Big 12 preseason media poll released last week.

Utah has won two consecutive Pac-12 championships with Rising at the helm in 2021 and 2022.

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He threw for 2,493 yards and 20 touchdowns, added 499 yards and six touchdowns on the ground in 2021, earning first-team All-Pac-12 selection, and had 3,034 passing yards and 26 touchdowns in 2022.

“When he’s in the huddle and at the quarterback position, there’s no doubt who’s in charge,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. He has the respect of every single one of his teammates. The courage and mentality he exudes is contagious.”

Rising had to be carried off the field in the first quarter of the 2023 Rose Bowl loss to Penn State. He later underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL.

The injury turned out to be far more serious and also included damage to his MPFL and MCL.

He tried to come back before last season, even representing the Utes at Pac-12 Media Days and warming up on the field before Utah’s win over Baylor at McLane Stadium earlier last season.

“Every week I was preparing for the game, but it just wasn’t working out,” Rising said. “I thought I would be better at training on certain days, but in the end it didn’t work out.”

Rising wasted no time off the field.

He said his lower-body injury may prevent him from moving like he used to, but he has tweaked his technique to get the ball out quicker and more accurately, improving on his 2022 personal best of 65% completion percentage.

He also continued to play the off-field role expected of a college football player who turns 25 in May.

“(The timeout) showed me the importance of leadership and how the quarterback handles every situation,” Rising said. “That’s really important. It can impact the team.”

Whittingham said Rising is ready to rock this season.

Despite not taking a single hit in the spring, he took every rep and continued to work on chemistry with the newly formed Utah offense, which now includes wide receiver Dorian Singer, who led the Pac-12 in receivers in 2021.

“Cam has that something special,” Whittingham said. “As much as he does for us with his game, his leadership is probably the most valuable thing he brings to the football team. He’s one of those guys that can make everyone around him better, and that’s what makes a great player.”

“He is the alpha dog of the football team.”

Unlike most of the other players from Big 12 newcomers Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State, Rising is somewhat familiar with the Big 12.

After graduating from high school in 2017, he initially chose Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, but then transferred to Texas and played one season with the Longhorns, but was not used in his only year in Austin.

“It definitely has something from when I was at Texas,” Rising said. “But it’s still the Big 12 and it’s still a great conference. We have the opportunity to play new teams and we can’t wait to go to a new part of the country and take on that challenge.”

Rising and Utah will host Baylor in the second game of the season on Sept. 7 in Salt Lake City. Because the game was scheduled well before the conference realignment carousel, it does not count toward conference standings.

Although Rising is still in contention for an eighth year after this year, he has made it clear that seven seasons are enough.

“It’s been a long time,” Rising said. “I never thought I would stay in college this long, but now I’m here, I’m excited, and it’s going to be a great year.”