BYU a Lifelong Dream for Heder

Austin Heder

Pleasant Grove middle linebacker Austin Heder grew up cheering for BYU for as long as he can remember, and long ago set his sites on one day playing college football at LaVell Edwards Stadium. So when he found himself sitting in front Coach Mendenhall and receiving a full-ride scholarship offer, he couldn't believe it.

Receiving a scholarship offer from BYU was both surprising and exciting for Austin Heder, who will be a junior this year. The 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound middle linebacker thought that through a lot of hard work and dedication he could possibly fulfill his dreams of being a Cougar, but when he was handed that opportunity so early he couldn't believe what was happening.

"It was exciting and I was a bit surprised," Heder said. "I wasn't really expecting this so soon. I just wanted to get noticed first and then maybe something would happen for me later on. The main reason why this is a bit surprising is because after the fourth game of the season last year I shattered my arm. That pretty much ended my sophomore season because I had to have screws put into my arm, so no one really knew much about me because I've been trying to get myself back into playing shape."

Despite having suffered a season-ending injury during his sophomore year, Heder showed well during BYU's summer camp. After seeing Heder perform, the Cougar coaches saw enough of the junior-to-be and recognized that there was an outstanding talent right in BYU's own backyard.

"I was at BYU's summer camp and there were a lot of top linebackers there and I just wanted to compete with them to see where I was at," Heder said. "Coach Tidwell, BYU middle linebackers coach, was watching me and talking to me during the camp saying I was looking good. My main goal was to just have BYU onboard watching me for next season.

"By the third day of camp the coaches called out around five names. I think three of us in the group already had scholarships and had committed to BYU, but two of us didn't have offers yet or had committed to BYU. There was a kid that had committed from California [Collin Keoshian] who is a big time player, so he was there in our group. There was also the kid from Lone Peak High School, Sae [Tautu]. I guess he committed to BYU also. There was the kid [Manoa Pikula] from Bingham High School who was with us. There were some other guys there but I didn't talk to them much. We were then split up and worked out individually with Coach Tidwell. Coach Mendenhall, Coach Reynolds and Coach Anae all came over to watch this group run through linebacker drills. Afterwards Coach Tidwell talked to me more about school and stuff."

After BYU's summer camp had ended, Austin and his mother were told by Coach Doman that Coach Mendenhall would like to see them in his office. Heder was really excited but didn't quite know what was going on.

"My mom and I sat down with Coach Mendenhall in his office and [he] had a good talk with me," Heder said. "He talked to us about where he wanted this program to go and what he thought about me. He then offered me a full-ride offer in his office."

Even though Heder was a lifelong fan of BYU, he wasn't ready to commit yet because of one particular reason.

"I wouldn't go anywhere else to play football but BYU," said Heder. "I've always been a Cougar since I was born and it's been my dream to play there since I was a kid. It is more than just football at BYU that can't be had anywhere else, so I wanted to commit right then to Coach Mendenhall, but I wanted my dad to be a part of the experience."

Heder's father was on a Scout camping trip in the mountains and had no idea what was transpiring back in Provo.

"Coach Mendenhall had offered me that day, but I just have so much respect for my dad [that] I wanted to wait for him so he could be with me," said Heder. "We made an appointment for the following Tuesday so I could be there in Coach Mendenhall's office with my dad, so we went back the next time to his office and that time I was able to commit to Coach Mendenhall in his office with my dad there."

Heder expressed a great desire to serve an LDS mission after attending BYU for one year. In the meantime, he looks forward to playing for the hometown team and being a part of a program he feels is the most unique in college football.

"With me being from Happy Valley and with there being so many BYU fans in this area, it's just a great thought of me being able to play for the home town," said Heder. "BYU has such a great atmosphere, facilities and great coaches that for me … to be a part of the home team is just a great opportunity for me. For me, BYU is just on a different level for a college. The quality of people that are there and the types of emphasis that is placed on the student athlete is different than any other college. For me, to want to go anyplace else would be selling myself short because of what BYU has to offer."

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