He’s a pretty laid-back guy,” Olmstead said. “He’s kind of sarcastic with this teammates and he’s able to give it and he’s able to take it. So if anything bothers him, I don’t know it. —BYU men's volleyball coach Shawn Olmstead, on Jake Langlois
PROVO — It's difficult to poke holes in Jake Langlois' overall play for the no. 3-ranked BYU men's volleyball.
The senior currently leads the team in kills (309) and in service aces (45), while logging the most digs (113) among players who aren't liberos — a position largely designated to dig balls. He's also risen to become a team leader and who could be considered the Cougars' most consistent performer during a year in which injuries have affected at least some of the play of standouts such as Ben Patch, Brenden Sander and Price Jarman.
“He just continues to get better and better,” said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead. “When you look at somebody new to the sport, like he is, he just continues to evolve.”
Yes, Langlois is still relatively new to the sport, a fact that would be surprising without knowing his history.
The 6-foot-10 San Jose native arrived at BYU in 2011 with no volleyball credentials outside of learning some aspects of the game from his father and former BYU volleyball player, Douglas Langlois, while playing some at his LDS Church gym.
Despite his lack of experience, he decided to give volleyball a try, although the initial results weren't positive.
“You have no idea how bad I was as a freshman,” Langlois bluntly assessed. “Seriously, I can’t describe it. The only way is to see film, which I don’t think they have because I didn’t practice with them. But it wasn’t anywhere close to any of the guys on the team right now.”
That first year was spent playing on what the players refer to as, "The dark side", a side separated from the regular contributors practicing at the Smith Fieldhouse. All things considered, playing away from the frontline players and coaches may not have been a bad thing, assuming Langlois' play was as brutal as he describes.
One influential person saw potential in him, however, and that would be the late Carl McGown, who was then working as an assistant coach to his son, Chris McGown.
“I felt like he had a soft spot for me,” Langlois said. “He’d yell at other guys, and then for me, he’d yell a little bit, but then he’d compliment me. He treated me a little bit different, I think because he saw something.”
Langlois embarked on an LDS Church mission to Brazil following that first year. Upon his return, something just clicked on the volleyball court despite being away for two long years.
“It was weird. I got off my mission and I felt like I was already way better even though I didn’t practice at all for two years,” Langlois said. “So you can just chalk that up to blessings, or something.”
Langlois played sparingly in 2014 before breaking out during his sophomore year in 2015. In 2016 he continued his upward swing and, as a result, was named a second-team AVCA All-American.
It's all led to a final year in which he's been playing his best volleyball and will likely finish considered as one of the best players to pass through BYU's storied program. Much like Taylor Sander, who currently plays for USA volleyball, and worked as a sort of mentor for Langlois during his early career.
“Taylor Sander was always there,” Langlois said. “I don’t know why he’s friends with me. I guess he just liked me because I was good at volleyball.”
Becoming good at volleyball came with matching necessary skills with Langlois' impressive 6-foot-10 frame and easily apparent athleticism. While he's put in the work to get better, the amount of work hasn't been extraordinary.
“I haven’t done anything different than any of the other guys. We all work just as hard” Langlois said. “I think it was just me playing all the different sports growing up. Playing soccer helped me with my footwork. Playing basketball helped me with my hand-eye coordination I don’t know, it just kind of clicked when I came in to play volleyball.”
Also aiding his play is a relatively easygoing nature that allows few, if any, things get him down during the course of a volleyball match.
“He’s a pretty laid-back guy,” Olmstead said. “He’s kind of sarcastic with this teammates and he’s able to give it and he’s able to take it. So if anything bothers him, I don’t know it.”
Langlois agrees with his coach's assessment but does note one specific thing that can work against his natural demeanor.
“I only get frustrated when I don’t pass well," Langlois said. "I can’t get too mad at myself because I haven’t been playing that long, but when I don’t pass well, it’s not very fun because I’m letting my team down.”
With the regular season wrapped up, Langlois and his team are now looking to the postseason, where the Cougars are once again on the short list of legitimate national championship contenders.
"We just want to win," Langlois said. "We have the potential (to get a national championship), and we just want to win all of them."