Jake Heaps' commitment to BYU on Thursday was huge news for the Cougar program, but it wasn't the only news. The highly recruited quarterback was joined by 6-foot-4-inch, 190-pound receiver Ross Apo out of Oakridge High School in Texas, and by Zac Stout, a 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound linebacker out of Oaks Christian High School in Southern California. Those additional commitments put an exclamation point on what was a not only a huge day for BYU, but for Heaps as well.
“BYU is the perfect place for me," said Heaps regarding his commitment. “I love everything about BYU. I love the coaches, the team, the school, and I know that BYU is the place that can help me reach my goals more so than any other place.”
That statement comes at the end of what has developed into quite the recruiting saga, which started earlier than most. Such is the case for a recruit with the potential of a Jake Heaps, as he was identified as a top prospect at a very early age.
This reporter remembers the moment quite well when he first became aware of Heaps’ abilities clear back in 2005. As someone who covers recruiting as ardently as I do, I receive a lot of film of a lot of recruits. Some of them are good, some of them not so good, but some rise above the rest.
When I received film of the then-12-year-old Heaps it was a bit unusual given his young age, but it was readily apparent to me that this kid was a special talent with abilities that could very well take him to the point where he is now as the top-rated quarterback recruit nationally.
BYU coaches no doubt received similar materials on Heaps around the same time and were quick to act on what they saw as a kid that would develop into a top quarterback prospect.
“BYU started recruiting me very early," recalled Heaps. “They were the first school to offer me and I’ve been recruited by them and I’ve had contact with their coaches for as long as I can remember. They have seriously been recruiting me since the spring of my freshman year. A friend of the family and a big BYU football fan informed BYU very early about me and they then got on me very early in the process.”
Throughout the process no school has been more consistent and relentless in recruiting him than BYU has according to Heaps, and in the end that relentless and consistent effort paid off.
“They were the first ones that believed in my abilities," said Heaps about BYU. “They were the first ones to step up and give me a full-ride scholarship offer and I’m so thankful for that. It was such a great honor to be offered by such a great quarterback school at a young age, so it did have an effect on me. Not so much that they were first, but in that they were so consistent with me throughout the process and always there. They were always calling my coaches, sending me emails and were always so supportive in everything I did throughout the process, more so than any other school.”
Heaps is quick to recognize the efforts of three coaches in particular. Those coaches include head coach Bronco Mendenhall and assistant head coach Lance Reynolds, but perhaps most important was his future position coach Brandon Doman, who he has really forged a strong relationship with during the recruiting process.
“Brandon Doman was the coach who played the most significant role in my recruiting," reported Heaps regarding Doman’s role. “He’s a coach that is going to make me better every day. I’m the type of player who just loves to compete and loves to be out there and have a lot of energy and a lot of fun, and that is what Coach Doman is all about.”
Indeed, Coach Doman was regarded as one of the most fiery and competitive players ever to pass through BYU’s program when he starred at the quarterback position. As the quarterbacks coach, Doman has brought that same competitive fire and enthusiasm for the game and in doing so really endeared himself to Heaps.
“He’s been there, he’s been at the mountain top," said Heaps about Doman. “He knows what it takes to be a great quarterback and to be a successful quarterback at the college level and on into the pros. He’s just a great coach. It’s amazing to me that this is only his fifth year coaching given what he knows. He’s very competitive and so am I, so that’s what I need pushing me and helping me never settle for something, but keep having me wanting more and more out of myself. That’s what I need and that is what Doman brings.”
Hoards of Attention
BYU obviously wasn’t the only school to notice Heaps’ tremendous talents, far from it in fact. As of Thursday Heaps has acquired 26 offers, which includes some from most of the top programs around the country. The recruiting process and the attention Heaps has received have been nothing short of overwhelming.
Such is the case for the select few recruits that show the promise that Heaps has since he started playing football for Skyline High School in Issaquah, Washington. Indeed, Heaps’ resume as a high school quarterback reads as impressive as any recruit one will come across.
The condensed version of that resume includes multiple First-Team All-State honors, League MVP honors, State Player of the Year honors, multiple camp MVP honors and most top national honors a quarterback can receive. This past year saw Heaps complete 203 of 312 passes for 2,910 yards, 38 touchdowns and a scant four interceptions to go along with his seven rushing touchdowns.
When someone puts up those type of numbers while consistently proving to be the top performer at just about every national camp he’s attended, people notice. The attention Heaps has received has been tremendous and, as previously mentioned, overwhelming at times.
“I really appreciate the attention and the confidence everyone who has recruited me has shown me throughout the process," said Heaps. “I’m very grateful to each coach who believed in me and had enough faith in me to offer me a scholarship. The attention has been overwhelming and something I never thought I‘d be receiving when I started the process.”
Heaps said he just sees himself as a regular 17-year-old kid who plays some pretty good football.
“I don’t get a lot of it," said Heaps regarding the national attention he has received. “I’m just a kid, I’m a regular kid, so what’s the big deal? That’s how I look at it, but I certainly appreciate the experience. It’s taught me a lot and it’s certainly had its ups and downs, but it’s an experience that I’ll always cherish looking back.”
Heaps was very aware of the national prominence he’d be giving to whichever school he decided to commit to when he did make his decision. Now that he’s decided on BYU, he’s very aware of and excited for the publicity he hopes his future school is now receiving.
“I’m very glad that this might bring a national stage to BYU because they deserve it," said Heaps. “The more spotlight myself or anyone else can bring to BYU, then the better.”
Not Just Doman
As influential as Coach Doman was, he hardly stands as the only reason Heaps made his decision to commit to BYU. For Heaps, BYU has much to offer from both a football and an academic standpoint.
“Coach Mendenhall has been absolutely tremendous as a head coach," noted Heaps. “In the four years that he’s been head coach he’s had a great impact. The way he handles himself and his program is something that I’ve really liked.”
Heaps has been watching the exploits of BYU’s team on the football field as close as anyone since Mendenhall became head coach and likes what he sees.
“Over the past four years there have only been five other teams that have won more games and that’s incredible," said Heaps about BYU’s on-the-field success. “That’s an amazing statistic and they’re a winning program. They’re a program that should not be taken lightly. They have so much going for them and I want to be a part of it.”
As is apparent to most - if not all - recruits that commit to BYU, the program offers much more than just good football. BYU is a place where people see an opportunity to not only grow as a football player, but also grow in all other areas of their life. Heaps, as a member of the LDS faith, sees many opportunities for himself to grow while at BYU both on and off of the football field.
“BYU provides world-class opportunities for me," said Heaps, who plans on majoring in communications. “It’s just an amazing combination of everything I want and it’s the best fit for me all around.”
Heaps has always had BYU on top or near the top of his list at various times throughout the recruiting process, but recently he received confirmation after studying and even praying about which school was right for him.
“It just hit me one day after thoroughly investigating every school with my family that I needed to come to BYU," related Heaps. “Now that I’ve made my decision I couldn’t be more comfortable about it. I know without any doubt that BYU is where I need to be.”
Heaps will also have the benefit of already knowing a lot of his future teammates that are either currently in the program or set to join later on. He has made great strides to get to know his future teammates during the recruiting process, and they aided him in making the decision to commit to BYU.
By getting to know future teammates such as Richard Wilson and Kyle Van Noy, Heaps already feels very comfortable with the social aspect at BYU.
“Those are my guys," said Heaps about Wilson, Van Noy and other future teammates. “Kyle in particular, I love that kid to death. He’s going to stay with me this summer and he’s going to make it. Richard is a tremendous person as well, and having guys like that who I know I’ll be able to associate with, it’s just one less thing to worry about. I already have friends that are there and that is great. It’s certainly not just those two, but just everyone I’ve met who are on the team and are going to be on the team are people I really respect and get along with.”
What to Expect
While Heaps is impressed with BYU’s accomplishments on the football field since Mendenhall became head coach, and though he’s confident that he can continue those same accomplishments, Heaps sees himself and the program reaching new heights in the coming years.
“BYU is on the rise," said Heaps. “There is nowhere BYU is going to go but up. They’ve made huge strides and they’ll be making more strides. They’ve put together great recruiting classes and they’ll continue to put forth great recruiting classes. The recruits they’re getting and all the guys coming off missions, we’re going to take this program to new heights.”
Although Heaps is too humble to state it himself, his commitment stands higher in regards to potential and most certainly national prominence than any other that BYU has received since Mendenhall became head coach. It is now Heaps’ hope that top recruits will continue to find their way to Provo, as he’s bound and determined to take BYU to another level.
“This is going to be an exciting time for BYU and for their fans in the coming years, I really believe that," said Heaps. “We can win a national championship here. Am I promising one? No, but I’m going to work as hard as I can to help bring one to Provo, there is no doubt about that, and I see a national championship as a very realistic goal, not as a far-fetched dream for BYU in the coming years.”
Heaps is obviously aware that the starting quarterback position will be wide open in 2010, as starter Max Hall will be moving on after this upcoming season. Heaps said he just wants a chance to compete.
“I’m going to graduate in December, which will allow me to compete right away for the spot," said Heaps about the possibility of starting as a true freshman. “I just want to go in and prove myself, to have the chance to compete, and if they feel that I can start, then great, but I just want to work as hard as possible to help the team and the future of the program.”