How the ‘stars aligned’ so three Empey siblings could play football and soccer

PROVO — A little more than five years ago, James Empey was a standout two-way lineman on American Fork High’s football team who had just committed to play for the University of Utah, Savanna Empey was starting to receive recruiting attention as a sophomore goalkeeper and Haven Empey was a spunky 13-year-old already telling people she could step seamlessly into her sister’s role in a couple of years at AFHS.

What if somebody had told them that in 2020 they would all be suiting up for the BYU Cougars?

“I would have said they were crazy,” said Haven Empey, the Deseret News’ Ms. Soccer in 2019 and recent winner of the Gatorade Utah Girls Soccer Player of the Year award.

But here the Empey siblings are, playing for the school that their father, former BYU lineman and assistant coach Mike Empey played and worked for, after nobody saw this coming in 2015.

James Empey, 23, is a preseason All-America candidate entering his junior year as a three-year starting center on BYU’s offensive line.

Savanna Empey, 21, is back from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Hamilton, New Zealand, and will be a redshirt freshman goalkeeper on BYU’s nationally prominent women’s soccer team.

Haven Empey, 18, graduated from AFHS last December, enrolled at BYU in January and is preparing to compete with her sister for goalkeeper minutes this fall.

“I always thought it would be cool to play somewhere that they would be. But I didn’t know that we would ever be at the same school, especially BYU,” said James Empey, who served a church mission in Lisbon, Portugal, decommitted from Utah when Mike Empey joined Kalani Sitake’s staff in 2016, and has emerged as one of the best players on BYU’s team.

“When the stars aligned and everything worked out and everybody wanted to be here, it was really exciting,” James Empey said. “Everybody has been happy, and it has been a whole lot of fun.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, the siblings made it a point to get together on campus a couple times a week, usually at Legends Grill in the Student Athlete Building to share a meal, or study together on the third floor.

“It is a blast,” said Savanna Empey, who had a couple classes with James Empey before her mission in 2017 and a few with Haven Empey during the recently completed winter semester. “It is fun to still be a family even though James is married and in a different stage of life.”

Said Haven Empey: “Sav and I this past semester had three classes together, which was super awesome; We both took American Heritage and I don’t think we would have survived it if we hadn’t taken it together.”

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