New Kansas University quarterback Jake Heaps doesn’t appear to fit the major-college quarterback stereotype.
He’s married. He’s shorter than the ideal height for the position. And, despite coming to KU during the middle of his sophomore year at BYU, he looks as if he’d fit in fine posing as a high school sophomore.
Doesn’t matter. The guy can play, a fact KU coach Charlie Weis was more than happy to point out during Monday’s news conference in which Heaps and fellow transfers Dayne Crist (quarterback, Notre Dame) and Justin McCay (wide receiver, Oklahoma) were introduced to the media.
“Don’t misconstrue Jake’s height with an athletic quarterback versus a true drop-back quarterback,” Weis said. “Jake can throw it all over the yard, too.”
That much is evident by looking at Heaps’ past. During a high school career that ended with him being ranked as the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the nation, Heaps led Skyline (Wash.) High to three straight state championships while throwing for almost 10,000 yards, 114 touchdowns and just 18 interceptions.
Recruited by Weis to Notre Dame, Heaps chose to sign with BYU instead, where he started 13 games as a true freshman and set every freshman quarterback record including passing yards, touchdowns and wins. His freshman season ended about as well as his senior season of high school, with Heaps being named the offensive MVP of the New Mexico Bowl after completing a school-record 25 of 34 passes and tossing four TDs in a bowl victory against UTEP.
During his sophomore season, Heaps was named to the Davey O’Brien Watch List and appeared to be on his way to a stellar college career that would land him comfortably in the company of former BYU greats Jim McMahon, Steve Young and Ty Detmer. After starting the first five games of his second season, Heaps was benched and that opened the door for Riley Nelson to take over as the Cougars’ starting quarterback and lit Heaps’ path from Provo, Utah, to Lawrence.
If he’s upset about it, you’d never know from listening to him talk. In fact, Heaps spoke as if he believed coming to Kansas was meant to be. Heaps’ wife, Brooke, whom he married last June, also attended Monday’s introduction. She recently moved to Lawrence and will take online classes from BYU while her husband takes on-the-field classes from Weis.
“I don’t think there is a better coach out there than coach Weis to help us get to that next level,” said Heaps, referencing his lifelong dream of playing in the NFL. “If that happens at the end of the day, that’s great, but our main focus at this time is to work as hard as we can with our teammates and make this experience at KU the best that we possibly can and win as many games as we can as a team.”
Heaps isn’t the only one who believes his reunion with Weis was all part of a grand plan.
“I was in love with Jake when he was out at Skyline High School in Washington,” Weis said. “I tried like heck to get him. I went there on a Friday night before we (Notre Dame) played the University of Washington, and I watched him throw 100 touchdown passes in a game. I tried to get him, but I just couldn’t get him, so I’m really happy to have him (now).”
So far, most of the focus has been on Crist, the Notre Dame graduate expected to start at quarterback next season as he plays out his eligibility. Heaps, who has to sit out the 2012 season because of NCAA transfer rules, seems to be KU’s quarterback-in-waiting. Others will compete, and Weis will bring in more quarterbacks to add depth to the position. Heaps knows that and seems to embrace it.
“Nothing’s for sure,” Heaps said. “I could be the future, I could not be the future. I’m going to make sure to work as hard as I can to solidify my spot.”
Crist, who hails from Canoga Park, Calif., and therefore knows a little about Heaps’ background, said he would do everything he could during his one season in town to give Heaps a leg up.
“It will be nice to help him in the ways I was helped by (former Notre Dame QB) Jimmy Clausen when we were going through things with Coach Weis the first time,” Crist said.