"I was really excited when I got the offer," said Zac. "My older brother went to BYU, and obviously it's just a great school and it's always been known as a great school. Being Mormon, I would really love to go there. It's great and an amazing opportunity."
"Oh man, he was thrilled and I was thrilled," said Zac's father Gary. "We're really thankful that they offered early because he already has an offer from Oregon State, and UCLA and Stanford are very interested in him. I'm very thankful that BYU offered nice and early so BYU is on his mind. He was so excited to have it."
The L.A. Times rated Zac Stout as the number one linebacker in Southern California in the junior class, and as the fifth best in the nation. He also received a number of other offers.
"[Zac] was All-County and All-Tri Valley First-Team," said Gary. "They also have a Rookie of the Year award, but technically he wasn't a rookie because he played as a freshman, but they actually consider them a freshman as a sophomore. This year in the pre-polls they picked him as the best defensive player."
Stout played on a powerhouse team as a freshman and helped his team win the CIF State D-III title. During his sophomore year he recorded 112 tackles, including 22 tackles for a loss, and forced five fumbles. He recovered two of those fumbles and also intercepted a pass. From there, the college letters began pouring in.
"I sent out some film and [BYU] really liked it and started sending me letters," said Zac. "BYU then talked to my bishop and my stake president to find out what type of a person I am. After that they decided to give me a scholarship offer."
Zac is considered one of the top players on a team that is loaded. Running back Malcolm Jones is highly rated, and quarterback Nicholas Montana is the son of Joe Montana. Despite the star-studded roster, the play of Zac Stout has helped him to rise to the top.
"I feel like when I get onto the field I play fast," Stout said. "Coach Mathews taught me a lot of stuff on how to read the linemen, but I mostly just play fast. Right now I have UCLA, Oregon and Stanford looking at me. I have offers currently from Oregon State and BYU."
Currently, BYU is ranked in the polls ahead of Ohio State, USC, Florida, Georgia, Miami, Florida State and many other perennial football powerhouses. Zac offered his theory as to why BYU is succeeding.
"I think it's because of the coaching," said Zac. "They have great coaches there and I think they get the most out of their players. I've been able to talk to Coach Lamb, and he obviously seems to know a lot about football, and [while] talking to him you can just tell he is just a great coach."
Zac Stout said he is also impressed with BYU's facilities, as well as the community around BYU and the level of education offered by the school.
Zac said that when he evaluates the different programs recruiting him, he is looking at their environment and the type of people he'll be around, the quality of education provided, the level of coaching they offer, and their football programs in general.
To take a closer look at some of those things and how they relate to BYU, Zac will visit BYU's campus when the Cougars take on the Lobos of New Mexico during Homecoming.
"I just want to check it out and walk around the campus and see what it's like," said Zac. "I know Dennis Pitta, and hopefully I'll be able to talk to him when I'm up there."
The Pitta family used to be in the same church ward as the Stout family years ago. Gary used to play basketball with Dennis Pitta Sr., and the two became close friends. The Pitta family eventually moved away when Zac was about ten years old.
"My sister is the same age as Dennis Pitta Jr.," said Zac. "I haven't talked to him in a long time, so it will be good to have the chance to say hi when I'm up there."
"I won't be with [Zac], and he'll come up with another family, but I wanted him to rendezvous with Dennis [Sr.] and Linda [Pitta] while he's up there," said Gary.
Gary said that the younger Dennis Pitta's success at BYU isn't unexpected.
"You know, I'm not really surprised to honest with you, because I've always knew how good Dennis was as a football player," said Gary. "He just didn't get showcased all that much while in high school. The thing is he always loved BYU since he was a little kid. If you know his whole story, he went up there as a walk-on, so by hook or by crook he was going to go to BYU, so I'm not surprised he's there doing so well. He was always a good player even in high school, so I'm not surprised at how well he's playing up there."
Zac's brother Justin graduated from BYU in 2006 with a degree in biology. Like the rest of the family, Justin has made his feelings known regarding where Zac should play football.
"His brother insists that he go to BYU," said Gary. "Yeah, his brother told him he is going. There is no doubt that he has the encouragement of his brother, his mother and his sister to go to BYU. It has to be his decision, but we've made it clear that the family would like him to go there, his church leaders would like him to go there, and BYU would like him to go there.
"Religion is the most important thing in our life. You know, I know there are a lot of good LDS players, and I personally feel that there is no place that he can go where he can get what he can get at BYU. It has everything for him and for where he's at in life now and where he wants to be. Coach Mendenhall is a great man, and Zac is being recruited by Coach Lamb, and he's also a great man and a great coach. BYU is just a special place, but I have to let him make the decision. I know he'll make the right one."
"I really like BYU a lot," said Zac. "I want to check it out, and [BYU] is definitely at the top of my list."
Gary said it is easy to get caught up all of the recruiting and the offers and attention that comes Zac's way.
"You know, when schools like UCLA and Stanford and all these other schools are sending you letters and cards, it's very flattering," said Gary. "When it first started happening, in speaking as a dad in regards to the BYU thing, the first thing I thought of was, ‘How cool is this if Zac can go to UCLA, and it's just 30 minutes from my house and I can cruise out on Saturdays to the Rose Bowl and see him play.' Then I had to catch myself and realized that this wasn't about me, and I need Zac to go the best place that in the best interest for him. In my opinion that's Provo."
Gary said he knows what often happens to LDS athletes with mission aspirations that choose to play at other universities.
"What's going to happen with these kids when they get out there and the schools keep them for a year?" said Gary. "They're there for that first year during the football season, and then they're told they're going to start next year and so on, and then they lose focus of what's truly important.
"Zac plays for a fantastic football coach at Oaks Christian. Zac's linebackers coach and defensive coach is Clay Mathews, and Clay Mathews was a First-Team All-American at USC, a Hall of Fame player, [a] first-round draft pick, and played 19 years in the NFL. He played linebacker longer than anyone in the history of football, and that's Zac's coach. Coach Mathews has told Zac that he's going to be a human being longer than he'll ever be a football player and to always remember that, and we preach that too.
"Zac has a lot of great influences around him, and there are some great schools that are recruiting him; you know, like the coaches at Oregon State, who are great people. They've told him he can go on his mission no problem, but I know once you get up there and get into the college life it doesn't take long. The General Authorities have said that anybody can fall away from the Church. All you have to do is just lose focus. All of that stuff is just really important to us."