PROVO — For much of fall camp, BYU senior wide receiver Ross Apo has been sporting the dreaded red jersey.
First off, Apo doesn’t like the color, plus it’s about three sizes too big. The jersey is a preventative measure, meaning he’s off-limits to contact after undergoing another offseason shoulder surgery.
“I’m in the red jersey still. Hopefully it will prevent me from hitting the ground, even though I’ve hit the ground every day,” said the 6-foot-3, 207-pound native of Arlington, Texas. “My shoulder’s been fine. Just had a little pain here and there. After three surgeries, whatever’s left in there is left.”
At one point, Apo showed reporters the scars on his right shoulder.
“Look at these two scars that I have,” he said. “We don’t want to have another one.”
Apo is part of a deep receiving corps that has looked strong in practices and is looking to help the BYU passing game thrive this fall. He’ll be ready to go when the Cougars open the season at Connecticut on Aug. 29.
For Apo, the big question is, can he stay healthy enough to make an impact in 2014?
“It’s hard to play when you’re not 100 percent,” he said. “That’s been pretty rough. I’ve just got to do whatever I can to help.”
Wide receivers coach Guy Holliday said the coaching staff has been careful about the way they’ve handled Apo in fall camp.
“He’s coming off a massive shoulder injury and a complicated surgery. We need to get him to the game,” Holliday said. “He’s clear, full-go, but why have him take a hit in no pads and go down on his shoulder and we’re sitting where we were sitting last year without Ross Apo? He’s had hard luck here. He’s been playing with the same injury for three years. We’re going to protect him, we’re not going to baby him. He’s going to play and he’s going to work, but we’re going to lay off the contact as much as we can.”
Does Holliday think Apo will stay healthy this season?
“Yeah, I’m confident, but it’s not up to me,” he said. “It’s up to the good Lord and Ross Apo. He’s stronger physically and mentally and that’s going to help.”
Apo and Mitch Mathews are two receivers with the most experience playing in the BYU system. The influx of new wideouts — Jordan Leslie, Devon Blackmon and Keanu Nelson — has increased the competitiveness at practice.
“It’s been fun with those guys,” Apo said. “They’re good guys on and off the field. I think we all push each other to get better every day. That’s how it’s been.”
Apo’s collegiate career has been beset by injuries. As a true freshman in 2010, he suffered a season-ending open dislocation of his left index finger during the second week of the year in practice.
As a redshirt freshman, Apo caught 34 passes for 453 yards and nine touchdowns. The past two seasons combined, while dealing with his injured shoulder, Apo has caught 45 passes for 311 yards and four TDs.
But he isn’t concerned about his stats.
“At this point, I just want to have as many catches as I can get,” he said. “What I need to focus on is helping the team as much as I can, whether it’s on offense or special teams or whatever they need. That’s the focus for me right now.”
His goal for his senior campaign, besides staying healthy?
“Just win as many games as possible,” he said. “We have a lot of team goals, but that’s the biggest goal for us.”
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