Top Utah LDS Lineman Next In Family Line

Utah lineman Ricky Heimuli received his fifth scholarship offer Thursday, bringing his current total to five. The big 6-foot-4-inch, 285-pound junior from Brighton High School is focusing on school, humility and what's most important in life at a time when distractions can now come so easily.

Having grown up a BYU fan, Ricky Heimuli was naturally excited when he sat down with his family in Coach Mendenhall's office for a talk, which ended with a scholarship offer. For Heimuli, the experience with Coach Mendenhall was a memorable one.

"Coach Mendenhall is a really good, humble person," Ricky said. "He's the type of guy that you would love to be around on and off the field. He's the type of person that likes to push you as a football player and knows what he's talking about when it comes to football, your education and your religion. He's a good guy to look up to. I look up to him a lot.

"It's really cool right now actually and I like it a lot," Ricky continued. "I got to talk with Coach Mendenhall face to face in his office. I got to talk to him one on one and that was really cool. My parents, my brother and [my cousin] Anthony [Heimuli] was with me too. I was actually humbled by all the things that Coach Mendenhall was saying. He gave me the list of five things they focus on, and the first thing is faith and then family and so on, and then football."

Given that they're BYU fans and yet had two daughters attend the University of Utah, Heimuli's parents were excited that Ricky received the offer from Coach Mendenhall.

"My mom loved it because she is a big BYU fan," said Ricky. "My dad also loved it and was very grateful for the opportunity. He's always wanted one of his kids to go to BYU, so he loved it too. They talked to me about all of this and just told me to not get high-headed. They want me to focus on school and what's most important, and then we'll see from there."

"It's an offer that me and my wife have been waiting for, for a long time," said father Latu Heimuli. "Even before we moved back here [to Utah] we were big BYU fans, and my wife also had a dream that one day he would go to BYU, because that has never happened [with our other kids]."

The fact that Coach Mendenhall has prioritized things such as faith and family over football has led to some raised eyebrows among many of the diehard Cougar football supporters. There is the notion that the coaches should employ a more football-based recruiting emphasis, and that the current philosophy could hurt BYU's chances with some top recruits. While that may hold true with some, Ricky said that Coach Mendenhall's philosophy is the right approach.

"Those things impress me actually," said Ricky. "Other schools don't pay attention to those things and focus mostly on football, but with Coach Mendenhall the people that support us the most are [of] your faith and family. Then it's your education, and then it's football. It's a big impression on me because it's not all about football, but about the most important needs too. It just shows you how they care about you as people and not just care that you can play football. I think the priorities are very good."

Ricky talked about the values and priorities that separate BYU's program from others, but he also understands fully well the reasons why the Cougar coaching staff is recruiting him, and that is to play football. During Coach Mendenhall's tenure as head coach, only five Division I football programs have won more games than BYU. Nevertheless, there have been many differing opinions on how top recruits may perceive BYU's program philosophy. That philosophy hasn't deterred or diminished Heimuli's perceptions in the least.

"It doesn't turn me off because honestly I think it's the best way to look at things," Heimuli said. "I think sometimes people just look at football and lose focus on who's really helping them. It's their faith, their family and their education. As they lose focus of that, they lose focus on what's most important. That's why I think those priorities that come first are good because it helps you to understand the reasons why you play football."

It can be tough for many young kids as they are suddenly vacuumed into the national frenzy of college recruiters, the glitter of media attention, and are torn between divided social circles and peer influences. Throw a divided house in the mix, and one can then understand a little about the world in which a young, humble LDS football player by the name of Ricky Heimuli lives in.

"There is a lot of pressure on me down here," Heimuli said. "It's kind of tough for me. BYU has been the school I've loved since I was little. I've always been a BYU fan and it's always been BYU to me."

The Heimuli name has been synonymous with BYU football, much like bacon is with eggs and Cap'n Crunch is with crunch berries. However, Ricky's cousin Latu Heimuli (not to be confused with his dad) recently chose rival school Utah over BYU, among other schools. On the other hand, Ricky's cousin Anthony Heimuli chose to sign with BYU.

"It's kind of tough and I'm stuck in the middle," said Heimuli. "I'm kind of spread in half because [my cousin] Latu is like, ‘I know you're going to be a Ute,' and Anthony is like, ‘No, I know you're going to come to Cougartown and be a Cougar.' So it's pretty hectic right now and the family is spread in half. We have half supporting one and the other half supporting the other side, so it's pretty hectic down here right now."

"You know, right now I am kind of stuck in the middle because Latu is my brother's son, and Anthony is my other brother's son," said Ricky's father. "So Ricky is still kind of stuck in the middle because he doesn't know where he's going to go, but we like Utah and the way they talk to us. I really like BYU because there are other things besides football, but that is kind of where we are at right now. It is hard, when before I thought it was going to be really easy."

So why did the younger Latu decide to go to Utah?

"I don't know, and he just said that he just loved their coaching staff and their program over there," said Ricky. "I was actually kind of surprised because I thought he was going to pick Florida, but he texted me and said that he committed to Utah. I was like, ‘What the heck!' I didn't really know what to say. I'm very close to both Latu and Anthony."

The agile and talented Ricky Heimuli is the next in the family line to be a top-rated lineman out of the state of Utah, and as such he will also be the next heavily recruited. He currently has scholarship offers from BYU, Utah, Washington, Colorado and Stanford, with more to possibly come.

"I got my first offer from Utah and they're a pretty good school," Ricky said. "I've heard from Latu that it's a pretty good school. They've got a few more coaches on their coaching staff, so I want to see how that pans out next year.

"Washington has shown a lot of interest in me and their coaches seem pretty cool, and Colorado is about the same as Washington. Stanford has a high expectation as far as education goes, and when I think about it, if I shoot my goals to reach the expectations of Stanford, then I can get into any school."

"There are a lot of schools looking at him," said Ricky's father Latu. "We now have Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Oklahoma, Mexico State and Minnesota, so those schools are now showing interest in him. We don't know when our son will make his decision, but I hope my son makes a wise decision. We talk to him about how there are other things more important than just playing football, but with all of the opportunities he has I hope he makes a decision that will affect him in the right way for the rest of his life."

Judging by what he said he's looking for in a college, Ricky has a mindset his father would appreciate.

"The main thing for me is a college education," Heimuli said. "That's the main thing for me, so I want to go to a college that has a great education. That will be a big for when I choose a college, and then the environment and how the people act around the community and campus [are also important]. I also want to be at a place where the players are close together and close with their coaches. I like how BYU's team is really close and they're always together. There are a lot of Polynesians down there, which is something I like a lot about BYU, and just how the school is part of my faith. Those are some of the things that stand out for me."

One vitally important thing that will play into the recruiting picture for Ricky is his desire to serve a mission. This is something his father is also very adamant about.

"I'm going to play for a year, then go on a mission," Heimuli said. "That's something that I want to do."

"My main concern for my son is he has to go on a mission," said father Latu. "It doesn't matter where he goes, just as long as he goes on his mission. That is my main goal for him, and he knows the best place for him to go that will help prepare him to go on his mission. He knows what university that is, but you know, what is amazing about all of these colleges that offer him and the others that I've talked to [is] they say they're going to let him go on his mission, and I'm surprised. I'm surprised that when I tell [them] he's LDS and he's going to go on his mission, and Stanford and other colleges say, ‘Oh, we're going to let him go.' I know that BYU is the number-one college on his mind when it comes to going on his mission, and I hope he is going to make a wise decision."

Ricky is intending on attending some of BYU's future functions.

"I'll probably go to their next Junior Day, but I'm not sure right now," said Heimuli. "I've talked to the coaches and they said the want to see me in June at their camp. They want to see me both at o-line and at d-line to see where I would excel the most."

As for a personal preference, Ricky said he would like to play on the defensive side of the ball.

"Honestly, I would love to play on the defense, but I would play wherever I'm needed," he said. "I'm willing to make the sacrifice to do what is needed the most. I would rather play on the defense because that's where I feel I should be. I don't really care which position on the d-line."

But what about playing on BYU's 3-4-4 defense rather than on a 4-3-4 defense?

"It's not what other colleges use, but it's their own unique way of how they play," Heimuli said. "That's what makes them different. It doesn't bother me because I just want to play. It doesn't matter how many linemen are on the field; [what matters is] just whatever it takes to get on the field."

Despite having five current offers, with more to possibly come, BYU is still one of the top schools on his list.

"Yeah, they're up there," Heimuli said. "They're pretty high up there."

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