Recently Olympus High School’s Ben Bywater was on BYU’s campus visiting with the Cougars coaches. While speaking with Ilaisa Tuiaki, Bywater told BYU’s defensive coordinator he wanted to commit. The news was received with cheers.
“I was talking to Coach Tuiaki and told him that I wanted to commit,” recalled Bywater. “We walked outside and there were a bunch of coaches talking to recruits. Coach Tuiaki then said, ‘Hey, we’ve got our newest commit!’ and everyone started blowing it up clapping and yelling, ‘Yeah! Yeah!’ Everyone was cheering and clapping and freaking out. It was great and so fun! It made me feel like a million dollars!”
Bywater new it was only a matter of time before he made his decision to commit to BYU known to the public. Ever since he was a young boy he cheered on the Cougars, so receiving an offer from a college he cheered for was not only a blessing but an honor.
“As soon as I was offered I was so excited because I grew up a BYU fan,” said Bywater. “It was just a place I’ve always wanted to go since I was a kid, so it’s an unreal and surreal feeling for me. I’m so honored and so grateful because the new coaching staff is so amazing. I feel so lucky that I’m one of the few kids that actually gets to play college football at the place they’ve dreamed about playing for. I’m so lucky and feel blessed and honored.”
The reason Bywater feels honored and so blessed to have received what is now a life changing opportunity is because there was a time when Bywater felt no opportunity would be given. His dreams of playing college football came crashing down after making a leaping catch.
“I’ve never gotten injured my entire life,” said Bywater. “I went into my junior year and started off great. In game four I lacerated my kidney. I went up for a ball and just got hit. I went out for five plays and then came back in and played the rest of the game. As soon as the game was over and the adrenaline wore off I felt something was wrong. I went to the hospital and they said football was over because of the two to three month recovery. Somehow I was able to make it back for the last game of the season where I started. It was a good learning experience.”
Having missed most of the season his junior year, Bywater felt his college football dreams may be slipping away.
“Given the injury that I had I only had a few games on my highlight film so every school that was talking to me wanted more film,” said Bywater. “I talked to every PAC-12 school and they always told me, ‘We need to see more. We need to see more film on you.’”
Then BYU head coach Kalani Sitake came calling. Known for being a coach with a keen eye for talent, Coach Sitake saw something in Bywater most college recruiters missed. He didn’t need reels of tape to evaluate Bywater, so an offer was extended erasing a dark moment in his young life.
“Coach Sitake told me, ‘I don’t need to see more film on you, I’ve seen enough. I already know how good you are and don’t need more film. All these other schools are asking to see more film on you, but I don’t need to see more film because I already know how good you are,’” recalled Bywater of the conversation he had with Sitake. “I was at the All Poly Camp last week and Coach Sitake said to me, ‘I don’t need to come watch you because I already know how good you are.’ He just gives me a lot of confidence and believes in me. The offer from BYU changed my life and gave me back my dream.”
At 6-3, 205-pounds, Bywater plays both offense and defense for Olympus High School. At BYU, Bywater is being recruited as an athlete and the position he’ll play will be decided upon his return home from his LDS mission. It doesn’t matter to him if he received every offer from the PAC-12, Bywater eventually would have ended up at BYU regardless.
“I felt like I wanted to commit to BYU, so I can develop a relationship with the coaches at my dream school rather than chase scholarships to schools I won’t ever play for,” Bywater said. “I want to build a relationship with an amazing head coach and my dream school. I get to play for an amazing program and I’m lucky for that.”