Provo • In his hometown of Crescent City, Calif. (pop: 7,542), BYU receiver Cody Hoffman is kind of a big deal, although the soft-spoken redshirt freshman would probably be the last person on earth to tell you that.
Think basketball's Jimmer Fredette, of Glens Falls, N.Y. but from the opposite coast.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Hoffman is quickly becoming a big wheel in BYU's sputtering offense. He's the leading receiver (among receivers) on the team, with 13 catches for 142 yards and had that back-of-the-end zone touchdown grab against Florida State.
Having redshirted last year, Hoffman started fall camp two months ago buried on the depth chart. But he has risen considerably to a starting role, and showed his athleticism and sticky hands last week against Nevada, leading the team with four catches for 74 yards.
But the most interesting aspect of Hoffman's presence at BYU is where he came from, and how he got there.
He was a typical small-town hero scoring 15 touchdowns his senior year at Del Norte High on the Northern California coast, about 20 miles south of the Oregon border, and making all-conference three straight years. But he was largely unknown outside the town Forbes magazine called one of the 20 prettiest in America.
His only scholarship offer was from Sacramento State of the Big Sky Conference, an FCS school.
Del Norte, with an enrollment of about 1,100, "is out in the boonies, so nobody knew about it. There hasn't really been any big names to come out of there," Hoffman said, explaining his lack of college recruitment.
However, one of Hoffman's teachers, Terry Vance, a 1984 Del Norte graduate, was once a roommate of BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall at Oregon State. Vance got in touch with Mendenhall, some game film was sent to the football offices, and Mendenhall dispatched quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman to a place "not many people go to recruit, because it is hard to get in and out of," Mendenhall said.
The Cougars had discovered a golden nugget not far from where prospectors found the real stuff in 1848.
"Without having a personal connection, we might not have been able to find him," Mendenhall said.
Hoffman made his first and only Division I recruiting visit, and committed not long after that in January 2009.
"It has been good. A lot different than Sac State," Hoffman said, summing up his journey. "I am glad I got the opportunity to come out here and check it out. I have been working real hard to be where I need to be."
Hoffman, who is not a member the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which owns and operates BYU, said he had barely heard of BYU, let alone its uniqueness in the college football world.
"I thought that since everybody is LDS that it would be tough to get used to," he said. "But they are just normal people, and they treat me just like I am an ordinary person."
In turn, he's shown some extraordinary ability on the football field something BYU fans say they can get used to, too.
Cody Hoffman's emergence
Opp Rec Yds Long TD
Wash. 1 14 14 0
Air Force 3 37 27 0
Florida St. 5 17 5 1
Nevada 4 74 25 0
BYU at Utah State
P Friday, 6 p.m.
TV • ESPN