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Dick Harmon: Donny Osmond visits BYU spring practice, Jake Heaps

Published: Tuesday, March 29 2011 9:18 p.m. MDT

Quarterback Jake Heaps, left, chats with Donny Osmond at BYU's spring practice, where Osmond told Heaps to 'quit throwing it like Betty White.' (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Quarterback Jake Heaps, left, chats with Donny Osmond at BYU's spring practice, where Osmond told Heaps to 'quit throwing it like Betty White.' (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO — Jake Heaps found a little added challenge at Tuesday's football practice.

Donny Osmond showed up and told Heaps to throw harder.

The young BYU quarterback has invested a lot of TV time watching Donny and Marie Osmond compete on "Dancing with the Stars" in recent years. Donny heard about that and decided to attend BYU football practice and thank Heaps in person.

The former teen idol spent a little time with Heaps before practice on Tuesday and watched some of the drills before leaving for a flight to Las Vegas, where he'll resume performing with his sister Marie at the Flamingo Hotel.

Tossing the ball back and forth, Osmond teased Heaps, "Come on, let's see what you've got. Quit throwing it like Betty White."

Quarterback Jake Heaps, left, chats with Donny Osmond at BYU's spring practice, where Osmond told Heaps to 'quit throwing it like Betty White.'       (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Quarterback Jake Heaps, left, chats with Donny Osmond at BYU's spring practice, where Osmond told Heaps to 'quit throwing it like Betty White.' (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

With teammates wondering what in the heck was going on and center Terence Brown yelling out, "Let me throw the ball," Heaps rifled a pass at Osmond, who buckled over, groaned and fell to the ground, but held on to the pigskin.

He took off his coat, threw it about 10 feet and told Heaps he wanted him to get serious and not baby it.

It was the first time Osmond had attended BYU football practice since he was 18 years old. Producers of the original Donny and Marie Show set up a shoot with LaVell Edwards for a segment in the shot. He wore a jersey with double zero and his brother Jay was the quarterback.

Jay told BYU defenders to take it easy on Donny but make it look real. Donny went over to the secondary and told them to disregard Jay and make it very real. "I went out for a pass, Jay threw it and I caught it and got hit. It was the last thing I remember that day."

Quarterback Jake Heaps, left, chats with Donny Osmond at BYU's spring practice, where Osmond told Heaps to 'quit throwing it like Betty White.' (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Quarterback Jake Heaps, left, chats with Donny Osmond at BYU's spring practice, where Osmond told Heaps to 'quit throwing it like Betty White.' (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Osmond offered Heaps advice about being in the public spotlight, something Donny has experienced since grade school when the Osmond brothers started their careers at Disneyland, singing on a patio.

Donny Osmond has sold over 80 million records over five decades and has achieved 33 gold records, 18 of them before the age of 13.

He knows the scrutiny the freshman Heaps can face these days.

So, why did Donny show up Wednesday? It surprised Heaps and his teammates.

I asked him.

"Jake Heaps' mom and dad came to our show in Las Vegas during the Mountain West basketball tournament and told me Jake watched every episode of '"Dancing with the Stars' and that Jake was a big fan of mine, so I wanted to meet him," said Donny.

Quarterback Jake Heaps, left, chats with Donny Osmond at BYU's spring practice, where Osmond told Heaps to 'quit throwing it like Betty White.' (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Quarterback Jake Heaps, left, chats with Donny Osmond at BYU's spring practice, where Osmond told Heaps to 'quit throwing it like Betty White.' (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

What advice did he give Heaps?

"Do you mean from my experience of winning the Heisman Trophy, a BCS bowl and national championship?" Osmond asked. "I told him to always be mindful you are representing not only yourself, but also BYU and the LDS Church, and that the adversary knows that, and he will be trying to work on you.

"I told him to stay humble and stay well grounded. You play in a filled stadium, it can go to your head. I've done that; I've performed in filled stadiums and know what it's like, I know that feeling. But when it's over, you have to be who you are because that — with all the stardom and praise — isn't your real life. You have to be you.

"Elvis Presley taught me that. He'd be on stage performing, but when it was over and I met and talked to him, he was just a real nice man with things he had to deal with just like everybody else. He told me to be careful, to never forget who I was," Osmond said.

Quarterback Jake Heaps, left, chats with Donny Osmond at BYU's spring practice, where Osmond told Heaps to 'quit throwing it like Betty White.' (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Quarterback Jake Heaps, left, chats with Donny Osmond at BYU's spring practice, where Osmond told Heaps to 'quit throwing it like Betty White.' (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

"I'd advise Jake to stay close to his family because, in the end, they are the only ones that really matter. And they'll be there for you. My family has always had my back all my life, and that really means something."

A life spent on stage. That's Donny Osmond.

The Donny and Marie show at the Flamingo is the highest-percentage sellout act in Las Vegas, and it just finished performance No. 500.

I asked him what he would have chosen to do in life if he'd never sung a song or performed on stage.

"I'd want to be a BYU quarterback."

Osmond said his work is hard but if it wasn't still fun, he'd stop right now. Donny told Bronco Mendenhall when he was done singing and performing, he'd like a job with the team.

Mendenhall didn't know what to say. Donny got him.

As it stands, Donny Osmond is the best athlete in a very large family. He works out tirelessly with a personal trainer called The Hamster in Las Vegas. He is in tremendous shape, and if you see the show in Vegas, he puts on a grueling physical display, just like he did on "Dancing With the Stars" — a show that drew in the likes of Hall of Fame football players Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice.

Marie always tells Donny, 'you're leaking,' because he sweats so much during the performance.

"I am a big fan of Brigham Young University," said Donny. "I stay busy but I watch them when I can. We had Bronco Mendenhall and his wife Holly and their kids to our show. We had them come back stage after the show and had a great time. This should be a great year for them and I wish them luck."

He said he records BYU games and watches them when his schedule allows.

"And, hello, excuse me, I'm a Jimmer fan," Osmond said. "I'm an official member of Jimmermania."

The surprise appearance Tuesday was a unique practice item. It did leave BYU players wondering what was up.

He departed almost as quickly as he arrived.

Osmond's example is something that does inspire folks — and always has. He is always on cue, cracking jokes, trying to make others laugh.

Performing. He can turn it on one minute and the next get deadly serious, talking about his son who is serving an LDS mission in the Netherlands.

Donny Osmond has generated millions of dollars over the years for several charitable organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Best Buddies, The Children's Miracle Network, and The One Heart Foundation.

He is the author of The New York Times bestselling book "Life Is What You Make It", in which he revealed his battle with social phobia, a common but debilitating anxiety disorder that threatened not only his career, but his very life as well. He narrated the PBS documentary "Afraid of People?", bringing this little-known phobia to the public's attention.

To spontaneously show up at a college football practice and throw around a ball for a few minutes with Heaps? It was right in his wheelhouse.

email: dharmon@desnews.com

twitter: harmonwrites

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