Quarterback Jake Heaps glad to be at Kansas, out of spotlight

August 28, 2012

By Jayson Jenks

Jake Heaps will sit out this year at Kansas after transferring from BYU. The Seattle Times

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Jake Heaps once commanded rooms the way only star quarterbacks can. Since his days at Skyline High School, his existence centered on the number one, a ranking given to him by recruiting sites.

He wasn’t just Jake Heaps; he was Jake Heaps, the former top-ranked quarterback prospect.

Now, at the University of Kansas, Heaps has no number attached to his name. In fact, this season will be lived mostly in the shadows.

Heaps will sit out this year after transferring from Brigham Young University. Just two weeks into fall practice, Heaps’ reps dropped significantly. His toil will come mostly in the weight room. He will watch Dayne Crist, himself a former top recruit, lead Kansas under new coach Charlie Weis. He will live the life of an understudy.

Here’s the thing: That’s just fine with Heaps.

As the former No. 1 prospect in the nation begins his second — and maybe his last — chance, he welcomes a new challenge, embraces it, even.

“It doesn’t matter where you place me, what you have me at, I’m my toughest critic,” said Heaps, who will have two years of eligibility remaining. “I’ve always been that way. I’m a perfectionist by nature.

“For me, it’s been a humbling experience to go through the situations at BYU. There have been high points and low points. To step in this situation, I feel very experienced from those. Now I have the opportunity to sit back and observe everything.”

He also starts over at a place where expectations won’t make him a constant target.

In fact, Heaps is so far from the spotlight that when 100 Kansas fans were informally polled about who Heaps was, 75 had no idea.

In the Big 12, Jayhawks football is overshadowed by traditional powers Oklahoma and Texas. Even on campus, the football team is second string to basketball.

It could be the perfect spot for Heaps to start anew.

“For me, this is a great opportunity to learn, get better and take advantage of some weak areas in my game,” he said. “Already at this point, I feel really confident in my development and what I’m doing.”

Heaps knows he needs to evaluate and work on his decision-making, one of his biggest weaknesses at BYU. Most of that work, though, will have to come watching practice while most of the reps will go to Crist and his backups.

“It’s about running through things in my head,” Heaps said. “How would I approach that? How would I come to the line of scrimmage and read the defense in this situation?”

Heaps had offers from Notre Dame, Louisiana State, Tennessee and Washington out of high school. He chose BYU and showed plenty of potential as a freshman.

A year later, Heaps started BYU’s first five games, but threw five interceptions and was benched at halftime of the fifth game. BYU replaced him with Riley Nelson.

“Those can be pretty heavy and burdensome expectations to try and live up to and to try and carry,” former NFL quarterback Brock Huard, who hosts a radio show on ESPN-710, said in December. “I think that just weighed him down this year.”

Heaps spent the rest of the year on the sideline, then left BYU.

“I needed to do it for my own personal progress,” Heaps said. “I really felt like I was at a position where I was stagnant. It was something that I needed, desperately needed, for myself and my growth.”

Kansas, though, wasn’t an easy sell. At least not to Heaps’ wife, Brooke, who had one year of school left at BYU.

“It definitely didn’t go over well,” Heaps said.

Yet Kansas offered something Heaps couldn’t get at many of the schools expressing interest. The Jayhawks weren’t preparing for a bowl game. While most of the schools talking to Heaps — “some big-time programs,” he said — wanted to wait until January to move, Weis wanted him right away.

And Heaps wanted to play for Weis, the former Notre Dame coach who recruited him in high school. Weis developed a reputation as an offensive guru.

“If you want to play at the next level,” Heaps said, “he’s definitely the guy to get you right and playing at the next level.”

So now Heaps gets his chance to take that step. He has been praised by his coaches for his intelligence and understanding of the game. He frequently discusses scenarios with Crist, a former starter at Notre Dame. And he has done all of these things to change a career that didn’t go as predicted out of high school.

Only, here’s the thing: That’s just fine with Heaps, too.

“I believe I have all the skill sets,” he said. “I know that I can play at this level. And I know I can play very well at this level. Now it’s about getting me to do all the little things before I take the next step.”

Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or jjenks@seattletimes.com

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6 Responses to “Quarterback Jake Heaps glad to be at Kansas, out of spotlight”

  1. Mark Welling on August 29th, 2012 10:56 am

    As a BYU fan let me tell you Jake Heaps isn’t going to be good, he is going to be great!! It’s too bad things didn’t work out at BYU, because he just needs some time to mature, and get his head right. In the next two years of Heaps except not only to see a future first round NFL player, but a serious Heisman contender.

    Let go Heaps!

  2. BYU fan on August 31st, 2012 12:45 am

    Heisman? Really? Surely you can’t be serious.

  3. Jktknc on September 1st, 2012 10:37 pm

    Heaps only thinks of himself. I knew people in the locker room at BYU and he was great in front of the camera or press, but never worked hard when no one was looking. Didn’t work hard or anywhere near enough in the weight room. Because he felt rules and extra effort was only for the rest of the lowely teammate that didn’t have his “superior” skillset he had. He had zero respect from his teammates because he thought he was well above their level. He doesn’t know how to spell HUMBLE. Good luck KState. Good riddens and thank goodness we don’t have to put up with him.

  4. To_Jktknc on September 4th, 2012 9:02 am

    Even if it were true that Heaps felt a little entitled, those days are gone and he knows it. Without hard work and a good showing, he has no chance to get on the field. If he gets a starting spot, he will earn it the old fashioned way. I hope he succeeds and goes far. Go Jayhawks!

  5. Michael Harris on October 21st, 2012 9:16 pm

    Jake reminds me of another great BYU QB who was arrogant and self-assured, Jim M. Great coaches just don’t play those they like, they play those that ultimately have the skills and ability to make a team great! It’s unfortunate that the same rules were not applied to Riley’s mistakes and bad decisions as were used for Jakes. I love Rileys “Ruddy” type spirit, but that shouldn’t have been the main criteria for the whole team to hang its success on.

  6. Joel Warriner on December 19th, 2012 6:27 am

    I was living in Washington when Jake accepted to play for BYU when he was a Junior in High School. I was thinking that BYU got themselves another ace of a QB and maybe another Heisman trophy, like Detmer. However, I don’t know anything about the situation or the mentallity of Jake and some of the comments generated. I do know, that as a BYU alumni, we are held to a higher level of expections in regards to moral standards. Jake may be in the same class of characters such as Golden Richards and Jim McMahon, I don’t know. I do know that Riley is not as capable as Jake. Jake made some horrible decisions as a QB. Benching him for the entire season may not have been the right choice. Whatever the reasons were, I don’t think that Jake made the right choice for himself in playing for BYU.

    Based on his recent interviews, I hope him all success in his career at Kanas. Weis should be able to groom him into a very good NFL prospect.

    Meanwhile, try and give Jake credit for recognizing early on that he was not a good fit for BYU.

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