Meet Sky View High School's J.D. Falsev, the newest preferred walk-on that Coach Mendenhall believes can earn such a scholarship.
"As we visited BYU, and we've been down there a few times, it was just a really good feeling to be there," said Dave Falsev, J.D.'s father. "They make you really feel good, and even though being a preferred walk-on was kind of a disappointment at the time, Coach Mendenhall felt that this was the best he could offer at the time. Later on when we went down for the official visit around January 9th or 10th, Coach Mendenhall stated that he was still a preferred walk-on status and nothing had changed. However, he mentioned that he had never given anyone that status that early. J.D. was still honored to have that opportunity. Whenever you have the opportunity to be a part of a program - and continue playing at the next level - that has been consistently in the top 25 over the past few years, that's an honor. J.D. passed up an academics scholarship to Utah State to have the privilege of playing for that program."
Now there will be no ESPN announcement of J.D. Falsev deciding to join the Cougar program, nor has he had a lot of recruiting hype that many recruits bask in. However, that doesn't mean that BYU fans can't get excited about the future possibilities that J.D. could bring to their program in terms of improvements to some key areas.
"To give you a list of J.D.'s accomplishments, as a sophomore he was First-Team All-State with the [Salt Lake] Tribune," said Dave, who was a defensive line coach for Sky View High School for 10 years. "He was Second-Team All-State with the Deseret News as a return specialist. During his junior year he was Second-Team in both papers, and then in his senior year he was First-Team All-State in both papers.
"He's been All-Region for two years and was offensive MVP for his team this year for our region. J.D. was the number-one punt returner in the state of Utah and the number-two punt returner was Brayden Compton in terms of yards per carry. J.D. was also fourth in the Utah High School Activities Association for the all-time kick return average. He got that as a sophomore. This year I believe he will be second in the state of Utah for the all-time leader for punt return average."
Over the course of his high school career, J.D. averaged 41.5 yards per kick return. From his accomplishments, BYU's newest preferred walk-on just bumped former University of Utah standout player (and current safety coach) Morgan Scalley down the all-time list to fifth. With his punt return average of 34.27 yards, J.D. also passed former Cougar fan-favorite Fui Vakapuna (28.9 punt return average) to take second place for the all-time punt return average.
"He had over 2,000 all-purpose yards this past year," said Dave. "He was within one touchdown away from tying the state record for career touchdowns, and one away from tying the in-season touchdown record for both punt returns and kick returns."
However, the Cougars' newest preferred walk-on's accomplishments don't stop there. J.D. also has the ability to play other positions as well, and has done just that for his high school football team.
"He's kind of an all-purpose kid," said Dave. "He's a return specialist for both kickoffs and punt returns. He also holds for extra points and field goals and he also plays a little defense. During our Logan game he played free safety because we knew Logan was going to throw a lot, so they moved him to free safety for that game. He's kind of an all-purpose kid. When he wasn't the first-string running back, he was moved out to inside receiver. We do a rugby punt here and he was our punter."
He's played multiple positions on both sides of the ball as well as on special teams in high school, but what position might J.D. play in college? His father has a few guesses.
"I think Coach Higgins is looking at him as kind of an inside receiver," said Dave. "If he gets any playing time early - and I've watched a lot of BYU games over the last few years - and gets a chance to make the traveling team or play early at all it would be as a return specialist. That would be my guess. I don't think he's going to take [Harvey Unga's] job. I think Harvey is safe with J.D. coming in."
BYU fans might get a little excited about the possibility of reopening the slot receiver position with a quick, shifty receiver in the mold of Nate Meikle or Reno Mahe.
"He's not a big kid," Dave said about J.D. with a slight laugh in his voice. "He's about a buck sixty-eight, but I think he's a pretty talented kid, but then again I'm his father. But he's had a pretty good career here [at Sky View High School]. By the same token, I understand he's around 5'8" and 168 pounds, and I think Coach Mendenhall is probably taking a chance on him. But I think it's a chance that will pay off because I think he can help them in certain areas. I told Coach Mendenhall that even if he never plays a single down, I can promise you that he'll make those he's around better. We've taught our kids core values, and when you're talking about core values and what's really important, I don't know why anyone would want to send their kids to any other place but BYU."
In addition to BYU and Utah State, J.D. was being looked at by other schools due not only to football abilities but also because of his classroom accomplishments.
"He's had quite a few football colleges interested in him," said Dave. "Some just send literature and some were a little more aggressive. A quick list of the ones that had been the most interested in him are Stanford, U of U, SUU a little bit and Snow [Junior College]. He's also been a really good student so he had been getting contacts from Harvard a little bit, with Princeton and Brown being the two biggest schools from the Ivy League."
During a personal conversation with Coach Mendenhall, J.D. was given some encouragement and hope from BYU's head coach. The words of Coach Mendenhall have personal meaning and value to the Falsev family.
"Coach Mendenhall gave J.D. a lot of hope when he was here," said Dave. "Mendenhall told him, ‘I have no doubt in my mind that I believe you can earn a scholarship. It's just right now [that] this is the best that I can offer.' You know what, I believe him and J.D. believes him. There are coaches that will tell you anything to anybody just to get an athlete there, but I don't think that is the case with Coach Mendenhall. I know J.D. trusts him, and we trust him and his staff, and that's not something you can say about everybody."
Dave played football for the Aggies of Utah State, but didn't mind that his son has chosen to take up Coach Mendenhall's offer and be a part of the BYU program.
"Of course, being from out here I've always been kind of an Aggie, but I'm telling you without sounding too religious [that] we've been converted," said Dave with a laugh. "When you talk about sending away your son into a college football atmosphere and all that it entails, it can be a scary thing. There are a lot of activities that go on, and some of those things aren't very positive at the college level with many programs. It's just great that J.D. will have this opportunity to be at a place where those core values are a part of the program. I was a nose guard and had been an Aggie all my life, so now that I'm in the Cougar fold I told Bronco Mendenhall they need to get some triple-X [sized] gear in the BYU bookstore to make this official. Coach Mendenhall laughed and said he'll see what he could do."