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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Zac Stout (#10) and Bryan Engstrom practice with the BYU football team at BYU in Provo on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012.

PROVO — It’s not so much how you start something, but how you finish.

That's a principle BYU linebacker Zac Stout fully believes. He's determined to finish out his career at BYU on a high note after experiencing some definite lows.

The lows came far too often for the Oaks Christian (Calif.) High product over his first few seasons in Provo. A slew of injuries held him back, along with some off-the-field social and academic issues. Those off-the-field issues reached a crescendo when a security camera caught him engaged in a fight at a Rancherito's restaurant in the fall of 2012.

The result of the incident saw Stout dismissed from the team, and his long-term prospects in Provo were very much in doubt.

A little over a year later, Stout is now back with the team after accomplishing the academic and social goals given to him by BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and is competing for a spot at Mike linebacker this spring.

“It feels great and I’m still trying to get better every day,” Stout said. “I’m doing different things — trying to get my legs back mainly — but it feels great to be back out there with the guys again.”

Getting back wasn't an easy process as Stout had to make some big changes with his approach and attitude. Helping every step of the way was a good support group, including position coach Paul Tidwell.

“Coach Tidwell was definitely texting me a lot, which really helped me (keep) my head up and get me in the right direction whenever my head was down,” Stout said. “He’s a great coach and I love Coach Tidwell. He’s just there for all of us players and he has our back no matter what. ... He’s almost like a father.”

Stout admits to experiencing many emotional ups and downs during the year he was away, but believes the whole process ultimately benefitted him.

“It was a great blessing in my life,” Stout said about being away for a full year. “It was a hard time, but it was a good time. I enjoyed it actually.”

As for Tidwell, he's excited to have Stout back — not just for football reasons.

“I was probably more excited for the changes he’s made in his life and for the young man that he is,” Tidwell said. “I was just happy to see him do the things that were asked of him by Coach Mendenhall and by the university to get back in good standing. ... I was just happy to see his life changes.”

Now that he's back, Stout is slowly but surely regaining the form he showed as a promising four-star recruit from one of the top high school programs in the country. Coaches believe he'll be completely up to speed by August.

As for his attitude and overall work ethic, Stout believes he's made great strides.

“I want it so much more,” Stout said. “I wanted it then, but it’s almost as if my picture’s clearer on what I need to do and how I need to do it.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney