Monson: Top-ranked quarterback Jake Heaps has big plans
Unlike most Cougar fans, who were happily going berserk, Jake Heaps, the nation's No. 1 quarterback recruit, was cool and calm minutes after he announced at a news conference that he was headed to BYU.
Decked out in a suit, and poised in front of the cameras and microphones, the 17-year-old, who has yet to play his senior season at Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash., seemed remarkably mature, beyond his years, which eased some of the discomfort associated with clamoring to interview a schoolboy about the ramifications of his future plans.
Heaps might be good, and, after viewing highlights of his prep prowess, he, in fact, is, but there's something disquieting and unsettling -- isn't there? -- about a kid who's had his driver license for all of one year calling his own news conference, put together by a hired publicist, to make it known where he will play his college football.
At first glance, the notion is premature, presumptuous and wildly egocentric, a parody of itself, an example of the manner in which college football's recruiting process has lost all perspective.
Some of that might be true, at second glance, too, but this orchestrated announcement was much more savvy than just the stroking of a young quarterback's ego. Heaps is a confident teenager all right, one who has grown both accustomed to and comfortable with compliments washing over him, but the whole show with the media was put on not for the quarterback, rather for other recruits who might suddenly be more inclined to follow him to BYU.
To bolster the fact, Heaps almost immediately introduced prized recruits Ross Apo, a receiver who originally verbally committed to Texas, and Zac Stout, a linebacker from California, who were also announcing their intent now to play for the Cougars. All of this coming just before Junior Day at BYU, a gathering of similar recruits, some of whom have not yet decided where they will play their college ball.
Heaps, essentially, was calling out to each of them. And he sold it this way:
"Only five other teams have won more games over the past four years. BYU is a premier program. I don't think people realize that. It's a great opportunity. This is an environment where we don't have to worry about other distractions. We can focus on the most important things: education and a pursuit to win a national championship."
On top of that, Heaps talked about his goal to "go beyond" college football and "make football a career."
Before anyone totaled up and shouted out Heaps' mounting score in the Modified Stableford System for Outrageous Presumption, he added: "Now, it's about hard work, and getting the players around you and making it happen. ... We're not guaranteeing [a national championship], but we will guarantee that we'll work our butt off in the offseason and during the season. No one will compete as hard as us."
Still, big words for a kid who has done little more than beat up teams in the 4A classification in Washington state.
Two other words that have popped up a lot over the past couple of days are Ben and Olson.
Olson was the top-rated prep quarterback who signed with BYU in the Gary Crowton years, only to sit out his freshman season -- Crowton's decision -- and then transfer after an LDS Church mission to UCLA, where he suffered injuries and never measured up to his promise.
Heaps, though, is a different kind of quarterback, a less risky one. Olson was a big, physical specimen who had a gun, but who also was raw. Heaps already is a polished quarterback with sound, consistent fundamentals that have brought him gaudy stats in his sophomore and junior seasons, when his teams won two state titles and went 28-0.
He's the kind of quarterback who could rack up a ton of yardage running the BYU offense.
But he's young enough to be your paperboy.
And that thought lingers, and gives pause.
BYU deserves much credit for getting Heaps, Apo, and Stout. They are the kind of athletes the Cougars have often missed on in the past, even LDS athletes who have had too many great options elsewhere to end up in Provo.
Now, they have three big-time recruits announcing at the same time, and, under that influence, maybe more coming in the future, some of whom are bound to pan out on the field. On a day for presumption, then, and celebration, the Cougars should go berserk.