Brad Rock: Commitment is a smash with Cougar nation
If you were at Iggy's downtown sports grill Tuesday afternoon, amid the commotion you probably had only one major question: What late-season letdown?
By the look of things, Cougar fever is back with a vengeance.
Now, if it can only bring the football team along.
Prep quarterback sensation Jake Heaps and two other players announced their commitment to BYU, much to the delight of the audience. First, there was boisterous cheering, followed by chants of "BYU! BYU!" Iggy's never knew what hit it. The press conference/pep rally drew an audience that exceeded safety levels and crossed over into claustrophobic.
That tends to happens when you land the nation's No. 1 prep quarterback.
While it will be years before anyone knows exactly what this means, one thing is obvious: It's better than the alternative. BYU has said all along it will live and die with top LDS athletes, and this was a case in point. Heaps is 28-0 in high school, with 6,104 yards and 69 touchdowns to his credit. Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Tennessee and hometown Washington — as well as 19 other major college teams — offered scholarships.
Yet the player who was named MVP at the "Big Kahuna 7-on-7 Passing Challenge" in 2008 was, well, the Big Kahuna in Utah — at least for a day.
After that, it's up to him whether he'll join the list of All-American quarterbacks at BYU.
"Hopefully," he said, "I can be among those greats. But it's going to take a lot of hard work ahead. So maybe one day in the future I might be looked at as one of the greats, but there's still a lot of stories to write."
The announcement indisputably proved the Cougars aren't taking last year's third place in the Mountain West meekly. Truth is, they didn't have a bad season. They lost only two conference games, both to nationally ranked teams (Utah, TCU), and finished 10-3. Scores of teams would be happy with that. Not BYU. Rival Utah amped things up by winning the Sugar Bowl, which meant the Cougars had to act fast and decisively, which they did.
They signed the Johnny Depp of prep quarterbacks. He is talented, likable, innovative and a box office draw.
You know the saying: Recruiting well is the best revenge.
"I think I bring a leadership and a swagger to a team," said Heaps. "I think I bring a winning attitude. I think I bring an accurate arm and knowledge for the game."
He brings his reputation.
The commitment by Heaps is already getting good mileage. Also announcing commitments were receiver Ross Apo, from Arlington, Texas, and linebacker Zac Stout, from Westlake Village, Calif., — both of whom may not have chosen BYU without Heaps.
The obvious caveat is that there's still a lot of football ahead. Heaps has his senior year of high school in Sammamish, Wash., to complete. Then there's the question of whether he'll serve an LDS mission, thus stalling his football progress. He says for now he hasn't decided whether he'll go.
There have been times at BYU when the hype outstripped the results. The most obvious was after Ben Olson announced in 2001 he would play at BYU. He was not only considered the best quarterback, but by some the best player in the country. Yet his plan never launched in Provo. He redshirted a year, served a mission, and transferred to UCLA, where he had an uneven career.
That wasn't far from Heaps' mind — or at least the media's — on Tuesday. Asked if he felt the pressure of playing at a school that measures quarterbacks by how many records they set, he coolly replied, "Now there's an expectation here, and I have to go out and perform. I want to live up to those expectations."
You could hear the rustle of anticipation all the way to Seattle.
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