BYU Lands a Big Mack

At this time last season, Levi Mack was working hard to get rid of his missionary legs and make an impact at defensive end for Eastern Arizona Junior College. One year later, Mack has an impressive group of schools jockeying for his services. Thursday afternoon, he gave one of those schools the news it was hoping for.

A Late Bloomer

Levi Mack grew up in Thatcher, Arizona where he played both offensive and defensive line for his high school team. Although Mack was blessed with a 6-foot-5, 275-pound frame as a senior, his college offers, and even his desire to excel on the football field, were not found in abundance.

"I really only had Eastern Arizona looking at me out of high school," said Mack. "I was alright in high school, but I never felt that I had what it took to play football in college. I just prepared and left for my mission right after I graduated."

Mack served a two-year mission to Russia where he endured the trials that most LDS missionaries encounter out in the mission field.

"I had my ups and downs on my mission just like anyone else," he said, "but I learned how to work through my trials and become stronger. It's difficult to say in a few words how a mission changes you. It was an incredible experience that has helped me a lot in my life."

While spiritual and inner growth are common to most dedicated missionaries, Mack also found himself developing athletically.

"I just matured physically when I was on my mission," explained Mack. "I didn't get bigger, but my coordination really improved for whatever reason. When I got home, I could just move better and control my movements better. My body just matured I guess."

Back home in Arizona, Mack decided to give football another go and joined the Eastern Arizona team as a walk-on.

"I felt that I could play and compete when I got home," said Mack. "I started working out really hard and dedicated myself to becoming the best football player I could be."

Immediate Returns

With a new passion for football and newly discovered nimble feet, Mack took up the defensive end position during his first preseason at Eastern Arizona. As the season drew close, coaches decided to switch Mack to offensive tackle where he dominated throughout last season.

"They thought I'd be best served playing offensive tackle, so I gave it a go and it just came naturally to me," said Mack. "I did alright my first game, but I felt like I just got better and better as the season went on. It's the best position for me and I really got to the point where I could take just anybody on the defense."

Mack went up against some very good competition during his first year of JC ball including a slew of future Division I transfers. His performance against those players built confidence in his abilities.

"I remember one defensive lineman who had an offer from USC who I went up against," said Mack. "Everybody was talking about him, and, to be honest with you, I didn't think much of him. I was able to block him on every play and didn't let him do anything. I was able to block everybody I went against effectively last year, and I hope to get even better this next year up until I join BYU this coming January."

Head about to Burst

As the spring began following his inaugural season at Eastern Arizona, Mack became the focus of intense recruiting interest from several strong football programs.

"BYU was my first offer, which I got about three weeks ago, and then Arizona State called literally 10 minutes later with my second offer, and the attention and offers just kept coming," recounted Mack.

BYU. Arizona State, Michigan State, Iowa State, Utah State, Colorado State and Texas Tech all offered the now 6-foot-5, 315-pound lineman. Mack appreciated the attention he received, especially in light of the bleak athletic outlook he had when graduating high school.

"It was great to get an offer from not only BYU, who I've always been a fan of, but other big-time programs—it was incredible considering where I was at before my mission," said Mack. "My dad joked around telling me that I better hope my head didn't get too big or it wouldn't fit in my helmet at the next level."

The raw athlete kept his wits about him, however, remembering what was important and what got him the offers in the first place.

"I'm a hard worker, I always have been coming from a small town in Arizona," he said. "It's hard work that got me here and it's hard work that will help me succeed while at BYU."

All Roads Lead to Provo

Mack's ties to BYU and to Provo begin with in his family. Both of his parents attended the school.

"I've always liked BYU," said Mack. "I was pretty sure before my visit to BYU that I'd commit, but I just had to make sure and check it out firsthand before committing. It lived up to what I thought it would be."

Mack found a family and religious atmosphere that he is now anxious to join. The unity among teammates particularly won him over.

"I just felt at home there," said Mack. "The players, the facilities, the coaching staff, everything was what I thought it would be and it confirmed what I thought before leaving—that I'd end up committing and playing for BYU.

"I hung out most with Jake [Kuresa] and Dallas [Reynolds] and really got a long with those guys. I did some shooting with them a bit and loved that. All the players were just great and made me feel at home. They made me feel like I was part of the team already."

On to the coaching staff, Mack felt a kinship with offensive line coach Jeff Grimes almost immediately.

"I had been texting Grimes and talking to him a lot before I got there, but meeting him while at BYU was great," said Mack. "Coach Grimes is a great coach that cares about his players. Not only is he a great coach, but he's someone who is a great friend. I loved going out to dinner with my fiancé and with Coach Grimes and his wife."

Mack's first contact with BYU coaches came through Paul Tidwell who is a longtime friend of the Mack family. Mack met Coach Bronco Mendenhall for the first time on his trip and came away with the same impression that most recruits receive from the Cougar headman.

"I've know Coach Tidwell for a long time," said Mack. "I knew him when he was at Eastern Arizona and he's just kept tabs on me ever since I was in high school.

"I love Coach Mendenhall's passion and his fire. He's so passionate with whatever he talks about. You can tell that he has a vision and is fully dedicated and fully believes in whatever he's doing, which you want in a head coach."

Mack will be able to transfer midyear and participate in spring ball next year. Even that is not soon enough for the Cougar's newest commit.

"I can't wait to get going," said Mack. "I wish I could just stay in Provo and start playing for BYU right now, but I have one more year to go in Arizona and I plan on giving it my all. I plan on improving throughout the year, so I can become an even better player than BYU first recruited."

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