The Africa-Utah Connection

By Kurt Kragthorpe

The Salt Lake Tribune

Cedar City's telephone directory lists a DeLynn, a LaVand, a Verdell, a LaPriel, a LaWayne and a LaVoy.

Utah college football rosters include an Abu, a Nakia, a Nikia, an Aminifu, a Fareed, a Johndale and a Teneil.

Utah and African-American cultures have this in common: home-made names.

``It's quite obvious that finding a unique name for a child has become more and more of an African-American thing to do and that making up something is for a lot of African-American parents the appropriate way to name a child,'' said Cleveland Evans, a psychology professor at Nebraska's Bellevue University. ``That has become much more important in the last 30 years.''

The state's football programs offer evidence of that trend, in addition to having several Pacific Islanders with their own unique names, Weber State's top wide receivers are Taurus McGhee and Kyhaunn Woods, whose name is pronounced ``KEY-on.''

``I guess my mom just gave it to me, trying to be different,'' says Woods.

``There really isn't any story behind it, but I tend to act bullish in my ways,'' said McGhee, whose May 19 birthdate makes him an astrological Taurus, symbolized by a bull.

Utah State's leading receiver, Nakia Jenkins, says his name is not only unique to Utah but unusual for a male. ``My aunt named me, and she thought it was cute,'' Jenkins noted. ``Some people think it's cute; other people think it should be a girl's name.'' BYU, meanwhile, has a defensive back named Nikia McKinney.

Evans speaks to names like that of USU defensive back Johndale Carty by noting, ``Black Americans make up new names all the time by putting together syllables.''

Ironically, that's the classic Utah method, creating names such as LaVell and LaVern.

USU's all-time leading rusher's name has African roots: Officially, it's Abu-Bakr Latif Ezekial Wilson.

The Aggie roster also includes Aminifu Johnson, Fareed Rashada and Demario Brown. Utah cornerback Teneil Ethridge is redshirting this season.

Nationally, some of the more intriguing names include San Jose State's La Tef Grim and Ghalee Wadood, Florida State's Lavaurnes Coles, Pitt's Chiffon Allen and Lafann Williams, New Mexico's Z Hodges and Ja'Mine Rozelle, LSU's Nemesis Bates and Mississippi State's Armegis Spearman.