Dick Harmon: BYU football trio has become 'blood brothers'

Published: Monday, June 13 2011 10:36 p.m. MDT

Jake Heaps participates in the first day of spring practice for the BYU football team on March 14.

JarenWilkey/Byu, JarenWilkey/BYU

PROVO — These summer football camps you see sprouting up in June and July can trigger bonds that last a lifetime.

Take the case of linebacker Kyle Van Noy, receiver Ross Apo and quarterback Jake Heaps, who met at a BYU summer camp three years ago when their high school careers were just starting to bloom.

Back in that summer of 2008, they were dreamers like most kids when they just start to date, drive cars and earn letterman jackets. Back in that summer, they ate together, hung out and forged relationships. They talked of playing together, winning a national championship. They still do.

But their paths took very different directions.

While Van Noy first committed to BYU as did Heaps, Apo gave an early commitment to Texas. Van Noy then got in trouble back home in Reno, Nev., and faced a charge of driving under the influence as a minor. It jeopardized his scholarship offer to attend BYU.

Van Noy left Reno and lived with Heaps for a summer in Seattle after his legal problems in 2009. "We became blood brothers, me, Jake and Ross," said Van Noy.

In the end, it only made the trio closer.

Apo abandoned Texas for BYU, Van Noy accepted a condition by Bronco Mendenhall to delay his enrollment by half a year while he proved his legal issues were behind him. Ironically, all started their college education at the same time, January 2010, although Van Noy is a year older than Heaps and Apo.

Van Noy, one of the nation's top-rated high school linebackers, weaves a tale of friendship, struggles and increased faith. Adopted, Van Noy doesn't know much of anything about his biological father.

He talks kind of slow in a John Wayne sort of way. He cracks up his teammates with his teasing, wisecracks and jokes. He seems to always deliver one-liners that keep players and coaches off balance.

On the field Van Noy is, at times, almost unblockable. He is fast enough to blanket tight ends in coverage and even gives receivers trouble. His quickness on a blitz to the quarterback has become a mainstay on BYU's practice field — as it was in games his freshman year.

"When Kyle walks in to a room, everyone notices him. He has that kind of presence," said Heaps.

"He is a funny guy; he can get to you," said quarterback James Lark.

"People make fun of us, tease us, because we're always together," said Van Noy. "We do everything together and we've become very close. But you know what? We've become closer to all our teammates, we really have. We stick up for each other, we have all bonded as a team."

It wasn't always that way.

When they arrived on campus — part of one of BYU's highest-ranked recruiting classes ever — they had a target on their backs. The established players naturally didn't like the rookies thinking things would be handed to them. They were scrutinized, criticized. Some veterans were quick to leak rumors about their "attitudes" and "work ethic" and thought proclamations of future success were premature.

It didn't sit right with many.

"Some guys had a chip on their shoulders about us," said Van Noy. "It was hard. I didn't feel as welcome as I thought I would be. But respect is something you have to earn. I believe that and I understand it, but I think you can help people earn respect. I guess some guys felt we were going to take their jobs."

As a result — none of them started in 2010. They hadn't paid dues or "embraced the culture." They "needed to learn" and be humbled.

Heaps, rated by many as the top high school quarterback in the class of 2010, ended up starting BYU's last 10 games his freshman year after Riley Nelson injured his shoulder and had surgery after a loss at Florida State on Sept. 18.

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