The Song of James Lark

BYU's season has been a far cry from what was expected. The quarterback drama of last year rose from old ashes, while fans became stuck in the quagmire of the he-said-she-said Big 12 episode, further fueling the season's drama. Emotions were released, allegiances tested, but all can learn a lesson from one Cougar familiar with the deck of life dealing the cruel hand of uncontrolled circumstance.

One-time four-star quarterback James Lark is just as much a competitor as any other quarterback currently playing in BYU's program, and his high school accomplishments back it up. As a high school junior at Pine View High School, Lark threw for 41 touchdowns – a state record at the time – and 3,800 yards.

Lark also rushed for 650 yards and seven touchdowns, bringing his overall production to 4,450 yards and 48 touchdowns in one season. Yet, his prep resume doesn't stop there.

During his senior season, Lark was named a state MVP and first-team selection after throwing for 3,248 yards and 36 touchdowns, finishing his prep career with 6,739 passing yards. He also starred in track, clocking at a 4.6 in the forty.

Lark ran the 4x100 and 4x400, helping Pine View's track team set a state record in the 4x100 with a time of 42.9, a record that was the best recorded in any Utah high school classification.

For his hard work and accomplishments, Lark had football programs like Stanford, USC and Utah recruiting him.

Lark ended his senior season ranked 16th among the nation's top quarterbacks, and could have accepted a scholarship offer to play at Arizona State.

But the possibilities of what might have been for Lark don't stop there. He was also offered by the Oregon Ducks. Had he chosen to play elsewhere, it could have been a far cry from his current responsibilities at BYU.

"Well my responsibilities, once the switch happened between Riley and Jake [Heaps] … things changed for me," said Lark, a junior. "I stopped getting reps in practice and things like that since that's happened."

As the third-string quarterback, Lark gets few – if any – reps during practices.

"Kind of how it works now for me is in order to keep going I have to stay after practice basically," he said. "If I'm not getting throws in practice I have to somehow find a way to keep my timing down and keep my head in the game as best I can. So, that's what I've been doing."

Not very many people have ever raised a voice of concern or sowed the sentiments of malcontent in Larks' defense, even though this once-national prospect has been relegated to a headset and reduced to stand on the sidelines to call in plays that allow others to shine.

"Coach Doman is up in the box and he signals it down to me to send in to Riley," Lark said. "That's why I wear a headset on the sidelines. It's to call in the plays from the box to the quarterbacks."

While playing at Pine View High School, Lark was locked in a fierce battle against another Utah quarterback for the rights to be called the state's best. That quarterback was none other than - you guessed it – Riley Nelson, who played for Logan High School. Lark and Nelson bitterly faced off in the state championship, which was won by Logan.

If there is anyone in the current BYU cadre of quarterbacks that could hold a grudge or feel angst or dissatisfaction with the current quarterback situation, isn't it reasonable to say it should be Lark? Sure. But how has Lark elected to handle the situation?

"Riley and I have a really good relationship, so for me to call in plays to him works out really well for the team," Lark said. "I didn't know Riley in high school and he didn't know me. We were immature kids and we really didn't like each other, but I never said a word to him and he never said a word to me."

Nelson accounted for 84 touchdowns his senior year before playing as a freshman at Utah State and then serving a mission to Spain.

On the other hand, Lark signed with BYU and redshirted his first year. He then stayed an extra year to provide quarterback depth for the program before leaving for two years to serve in Russia. When Lark returned home in December of 2009, he returned to a surprise. He saw his old high school rival in competition to replace Max Hall as the starting quarterback after transferring to BYU.

Still, there were no outcries, personal posturing or rumors of transfers from Lark, even when BYU was adding the nation's top-ranked high school quarterback in Jake Heaps, who graduated early in order to enroll early at BYU the month after Lark got home.

Rather, Larks has quietly pressed on and continues to work hard and sacrifice, knowing he'll probably never accomplish the dreams he once had as a national quarterback prospect out of high school. Instead, he's watched his old high school nemesis step in and take his place.

"Now that I've gotten to know Riley, and if I would have known him back then, we would have been best friends like we are now," Lark said with a smile.

How exemplary and incredible is the standard and character of heart of Lark? He's turned bittersweet irony into an unrecognized and uncelebrated feat of personal triumph, when truly there was a chance to shout, stir bitter divisions, moan and sulk about his circumstances. He took a unique disposition, and a great lesson has been given to everyone associated in and outside of BYU football.

"Me and Riley are good friends, really close friends," Lark said. "It's ironic, but I'm sure we'll have a close friendship for a very long time.

"I don't know a lot of guys who are happy with being the third-string quarterback, but I've learned to deal with my role on the team, and I've learned to do the best that I can with whatever they've asked me to do in life. I'm happy."

With all the adversity that's occurred over the course of this season, if only everyone could be more like James Lark.

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