PROVO — As if the announcement that the top-rated high school quarterback in the nation is headed to BYU wasn't enough, Jake Heaps also showed he possesses a good sense of drama, a knack for building team unity, and a penchant for firing up a crowd.
Two other highly touted prep players — Texas wide receiver Ross Apo and California linebacker Zac Stout — joined Heaps in verbally committing to the Cougars on Thursday afternoon in a news conference that transformed into a spontaneous pep rally.
The event tripled the pleasure of the dozens of Cougar fans who filed into Iggy's Sports Grill in Salt Lake City and cheered while witnessing what could go down as the biggest recruiting day in the school's football history.
After donning a BYU cap to proclaim his college choice, to a roar of approval from fans, Heaps said, "I know that I'm only one player and there is a whole team of us. BYU is a tremendous program and I need more than just me. There's 22 players out there on offense and defense, and it takes more to win a national championship and to win a conference championship."
Heaps, a prep standout from Skyline High in Washington, then introduced Apo, who emerged from the crowd to more cheers. Apo subsequently introduced Stout, who took his place in front of a bank of microphones at a table with Heaps and Apo.
"I had a whole speech written out that I didn't get through because it was so overwhelming," Heaps said afterward about the turnout. "I'm so excited right now and it shows how great a fan base BYU has."
Heaps explained that the motivation behind the production was to boost BYU's program.
"This whole press conference wasn't about me. It was about these guys," Heaps said. "It was about BYU as a collective group, getting these guys in the spotlight and BYU in the spotlight. If I have to take the heat for that a little bit, I'm definitely going to do that. I don't need the press conference and all that stuff. I'm not a Hollywood-type kid. But to get national media attention to BYU, I'll do that, definitely."
All three players are members of the LDS Church. Heaps and Apo plan to enroll early at BYU, next January, after the conclusion of their senior seasons. Stout said he plans to attend BYU for one year before serving a mission.
This fall, Heaps and Stout will go head-to-head as their schools, Skyline High and Oaks Christian High, meet on Sept. 18 in a showdown that will be televised by ESPN. Stout said as a group, the three were looking for a school with an environment that embraces education, faith, family and football. "We all agree that the combination of these things, with the emphasis on football, that BYU is right for us," he said.
The trio also emphasized that they want to win a national title during their careers in Provo.
"This is the place that we felt we have the best opportunity to win a national championship," Heaps said. "In no way, shape or form am I guaranteeing a national championship. But we're going to work like crazy to come out here and work hard for a national championship. It's not a dream, it's a reality. With a lot of hard work and dedication, it's a goal we can achieve."
While Heaps received 26 scholarship offers from around the country, his final decision came down to BYU and his hometown school, Washington, whose coach is former Cougar quarterback Steve Sarkisian. Heaps informed Sarkisian about his decision Wednesday.
"It was tough," Heaps said. "Coach Sarkisian made the same decision I did (as a player). He understands more than anybody why I chose (BYU). It was tough to say no, but at the same time, I was just really happy that I'm coming to a school that's right for me."
Now Heaps will have to deal with the reaction of Washington fans as he finishes up his senior year.
"It will be interesting to see what happens when I go back home," Heaps said. "Hopefully they'll be respectful. I know they will be. It will be tough to see some people if they say some bad things."
BYU and Washington are scheduled to play in 2010, '11 and '12.
Heaps and Apo met in January and struck up a friendship, with Apo visiting Heaps' home in Washington several times. Apo had verbally committed to the University of Texas in February, but decided to join Heaps at BYU.
"I probably decided (to go to BYU) before (Heaps), but since I was committed to Texas, I was a little hesitant to do anything," Apo said. "After he decided, it helped me a lot."
Apo, who is known for his size, quickness and athletic ability, compares his playing style to NFL star Randy Moss.
"Ross is a tremendous receiver and is, in my opinion, the best receiver in the country," Heaps said.
"I'm a downfield threat," Apo said. "Let the ball go down field and I'm going to go get it."
Asked about Heaps, Apo said, "He's very accurate. I probably like him more as a person than as a quarterback."
Apo plans to compete for playing time once he enrolls at BYU. "That's what they brought me here for, to play right away," he said. "I'm going to come in, work hard and try to get a starting spot."
Just last February, BYU lost a top-rated LDS recruit, linebacker Manti Te'o, who opted to attend Notre Dame. Asked about that, Stout had this message for Cougar fans. "They'll forget about Manti," he said.
Of Stout, Heaps said, "It's fitting that Zac's last name is Stout. We want a stout defense. BYU has been known for having a great defense, and I think Zac will add to that."294 comments on this story
"I hope to bring leadership," Stout said. "I've been given a lot of athletic ability and I hope to put it all out there on the field and give it all I've got."
Timing of this announcement was well-planned. All three players are in the area because they will attend BYU's Junior Day, which starts today.
"We're really excited to go down there (to Provo) and be at our future home, where we'll be for the next four or five years together," Heaps said, adding that he and Apo and Stout will try to recruit more players to the program over the weekend.