PROVO — BYU's Ross Apo remembers it as the toughest phone call he's ever had to make.
While in high school, the redshirt freshman wide receiver originally committed to the University of Texas, only to change his mind later and decide that Provo, not Austin, was the place for him.
So, Apo, an Arlington, Texas, native, was faced with the uncomfortable predicament of having to call Longhorn coach Mack Brown, one of the winningest active coaches in college football, and deliver the news that he was de-committing and playing college football elsewhere.
"It was the worst call of my life," Apo recalled Monday. "It took me forever to call him. I kept practicing in the mirror. It was hard. (Brown) wasn't too happy, either. They tried to get me to change my mind and they wouldn't take no for an answer."
Apo didn't tell Brown that he was going to BYU at that time. "I just told them I didn't want to go (to Texas) anymore," he said.
Now, more than a couple of years after that dreaded phone call, Apo will be going to the University of Texas, but he'll be wearing BYU blue, not burnt orange, as the No. 24 Longhorns and Cougars square off Saturday (5 p.m. MT, ESPN2).
In June 2009, Apo, quarterback Jake Heaps, and linebacker Zac Stout announced their respective commitments to BYU during a much-publicized news conference at a Salt Lake sports bar. The trio of LDS players expressed their desire to help lead the Cougars to a national championship.
The announcement of those commitments attracted significant attention. Then again, committing to Texas, then de-committing, isn't something that goes unnoticed. It's rare that a player de-commits from the Longhorns, especially to play for BYU instead.
"It goes with the part of recruiting, especially when you commit to a big program like Texas, and you're from Texas, you go to Texas," Heaps said Monday. "I think Ross knew that wasn't the place for him. At the end of the day, I think coach Brown has to respect Ross' decision. I'd be a little upset, too, if I lost Ross. He's a great player. We're lucky to have him here at BYU. I know he's excited for this game."
Apo has former high school teammates who play for the Longhorns and he'll have many of friends and family sitting in the stands at 100,000-seat Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
"I can't wait to go home and see all of my friends and a couple of guys I used to play with that are playing for Texas," said the 6-foot-3, 206-pounder. "It'll be fun. I've played with some of their DBs. They're fast, and they're good. We're going to have to be perfect in this game."
Of course, Apo will have plenty of motivation for this showdown in the Lone Star State.
"I'm excited. I do look at is as a motivation to go back there," he said. "I'm sure there's a lot of people that don't like me. It's going to make me play harder."
In BYU's 14-13 win at Ole Miss in the season-opener last Saturday, Apo scored the only offensive touchdown of the game when he caught a 19-yard TD pass from Heaps midway through the fourth quarter.
"It was a post corner. Their corners were fast and aggressive, so coach knew we could beat them on a double-move," Apo said of his first collegiate touchdown. "(The corner) bit on the post and broke it off and it was wide open."
Apo's first career catch came with less than one minute remaining in the first half and he finished with four receptions for 46 yards.
Heaps said Apo's impact in the Ole Miss game "was huge. We really needed him to step up and make some plays out there. Even if he didn't have a dominating game, it would be just fine. Realistically, you have to look at that this was his first football game in college football. He's a tremendous player with great physical abilities. He's going to be a great one here. It was great to see him respond the way that he did out there and he made some good plays, ran some good routes — he still made some mistakes that he needs to get corrected — but he did a great job. That really opens our offense up."
Mendenhall said Apo is "learning, growing, maturing. I think it's a nice reference point to start from. I certainly think he's capable. We'll just continue to learn and grow as we go."23 comments on this story
For Brown, who has coached Texas since 1998, Apo is one recruit that got away. And he's let Mendenhall know that he hasn't forgotten it. The two men were at a social function when Brown told Mendenhall, "You stole one from us." That comment was made in jest, Mendenhall said.
"But most of the time when something like that is said, there's a little sting behind it," Mendenhall added. "But I'm glad Ross is with us."
Cougars on the air
BYU (1-0) at No. 24 Texas (1-0)
Saturday, 5 p.m. MT
Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
TV: ESPN2 Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM