The last time I saw Jake Heaps the Skyline High senior-to-be was sporting his school’s colors. He was sandwiched between his parents, the Heaps trio squeezed into what suffices for my office-guest furniture.
Young Heaps, by then said to be the best college-football quarterback prospect in the land, had traveled all the way from his Redmond home to visit the University of Washington Department of Communication. He and his folks ostensibly wanted to see whether my colleagues and I could help him toward a long-term goal: broadcasting sports.
As I bid adieu to the athlete, I imagined the next time I’d see him would indeed be on a TV screen, only he’d be wearing a college-football helmet and it wouldn’t be purple and gold.
A Mormon, Heaps, not surprisingly, chose Brigham Young University instead of any dozens of worthy suitors. It had a lot to do with the style of play preferred by BYU coaches — that and the fact that there happened to be another Jake at Washington, Locker later choosing to play the 2010 season. By then freshman Heaps had employed the high-school equivalent of the hurry-up offense, graduating early from Skyline so that he could commence spring practice in his new home, Provo, Utah.
Soon Provo will be the old home for Heaps and his wife. Monday (Dec. 5) he announced in an online interview that he’s leaving BYU by the end of the year. Even though Heaps became his team’s starter as a freshman and has performed well lately for the Cougars, he evidently couldn’t countenance being relegated to back-up status earlier this season. He plans to take his remaining eligibility elsewhere and try to help another program next season.
Heaps, even given the brevity of our half-hour meeting, seemed mature beyond his years. That’s one reason why I have no doubt he’ll succeed at whichever college program welcomes him and he’ll probably play as a professional.
His decision is rare, as are second chances in big-time football. For context, Heaps might want to pull up a bio of another Northwest-bred quarterback, A.J. Feeley. That the latter will be on the sidelines Monday (Dec. 12) when the Seahawks host St. Louis would’ve seemed impossible a decade ago. Feeley had been a passing prodigy at Ontario High in Eastern Oregon when he arrived in Eugene to lead the Duck offense.
After acquitting himself well his junior year, Feeley suffered an elbow injury as a senior, yielding the QB chores to Joey Harrington. Feeley's replacement became a college star, finishing fourth in the 2001 Heisman Trophy sweepstakes. Portland-bred Harrington then was drafted third in the 2002 NFL draft, starting for Detroit then moving to three other teams before leaving the league in 2009.
Feeley? After being drafted by Philadelphia in 2002, he moved five times, winding up at age 34 as back-up to the Rams’ Sam Bradford. When he arrives for the Monday-night game he’ll bring (along with a broken thumb sustained in the Dec. 4 game with San Francisco) five-game 2011 playing experience, a quarterback rating of 66 and a 54.6 completion percentage. The veteran’s numbers aren’t appreciably different from those of the Hawks’ Tarvaris Jackson.
Message to Jake Heaps? If A.J. Feeley’s career is any indication, don’t look back. BYU ain’t gonna be your last stop.