Finally Official

Both Jake Heaps and Ross Apo made a huge splash with their public press conference this past summer announcing their commitment to BYU. On Thursday both of them made it official. With a press release BYU announced their signings of scholarship agreements. Both of them will be entering school along with Kyle Van Noy, whose enrollment was suspended, and with three recently returned missionaries.

"I'm just happy right now, that's really the only word I can say about it, just happy," expressed Ross Apo upon signing his scholarship agreement on Thursday. "It's been a long process and it's not all that different now that I've signed it. I've been determined to sign with BYU for a while now, so me signing something really doesn't change things in my mind. BYU is the only place I've wanted to be for a while now."

Apo will join with good friend Kyle Van Noy, who had to delay his enrollment due to some legal and personal troubles that he hopes he has now put behind him permanently. The almost full year of waiting to enroll hasn't been easy for him, but now that the waiting is over he couldn't be more excited.

"I really can't express with words the excitement I'm feeling and it's been building so much with every day," he said. "I can't even tell you how happy I am and how blessed I feel to have BYU be patient with me and for the opportunities I'm going to have when I get there."

Having been charged with a DUI just days before last year's signing day, Van Noy's had to go through a process of reform that has been challenging but greatly beneficial.

"It's hard doing basically nothing and just waiting," he said. "A lot of people told me that I couldn't do it and even that I shouldn't do it. But I've done it up to this point. I've honored my commitment that I made to Coach Mendenhall and I'm going to BYU in just a few weeks."

Van Noy took special note and meaning from the death of the Cincinnati Bengal Chris Henry's death on Thursday. He saw a lot of himself in Henry, considering the respective strides they've made.

"He had some of the same troubles that I had, but he was working hard to get through them," Van Noy related. "He got a tattoo that simply said ‘blessed' right before he died and I'm not saying I'm getting a tattoo or anything, but I can relate to what he was going through. It's tragic that he died and had his career cut short, but he was on his way and he knew that he was blessed and for me, that's what I'm trying to remember, the great blessings I've received and that I'm going to receive if I keep clean and keep progressing."

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall understands that many feel he took a risk on Van Noy, but he's seen Van Noy stay true to his word and is anxious to see him on the team.

"I'm really excited that he's made the strides necessary to enroll," said Mendenhall about Van Noy. "It's a work in progress and I reserve the right at any time to when I bring players in the program - some who really want BYU and some who need BYU, and Kyle is both. I'm anxious to work with him. He's honored his commitments to me and I'll do the same to him."

"I will never let that man down," said Van Noy in turn about Mendenhall. "I love that man and he's the biggest reason why I'm going to BYU. He believed in me when others wouldn't and I'll do anything for him. How could I not honor my commitments when I've been so blessed with his faith and his confidence? Not just him, but my mom, my dad. I couldn't bear seeing my mom's look of disapproval again. I've seen it and I don't want to see it again. I've let a lot of people down in my life, but that's over. By letting others down I let myself down and I'm through with that and have been for a year now."

Meanwhile, Ross Apo has some big goals while at BYU.

"I want to break all the records," he explained. "I want to be their all-time-leading receiver. It starts early and I know they've had some guys that will be hard to surpass, but that's my goal. I want to be BYU's all-time leading receiver."

Apo's immediate goal includes breaking the regular receiver rotation his first season, which is greatly aided by his early enrollment.

"It's really the ideal time for any freshman to come into a program," said Mendenhall about Apo and Heaps arriving in time to participate in spring practices. "Now they're able to go through offseason conditioning, you're able to go through spring practices, summer workouts before they even report to fall camp. They're then a lot more accustomed to what it's like and managing the workload than just practicing right when the season hits. If I had my preference, it's better for them and for the program that they arrive early."

Last but certainly not least was Jake Heaps faxing in his scholarship agreement. With his many accolades in high school he's a natural leader for this year's incoming class, but it's perhaps his other attributes that make him a natural headliner for the 2010 incoming freshmen.

"I'm very excited about Jake, I think he's a great young man," expressed Mendenhall about Heaps. "He'll be a very good leader and a very good player for us here. I was impressed with his presence and how he's just mature beyond his years and he's a natural leader. When you look at our recruiting class, a lot of it's due to him and the players he worked to surround himself with."

Despite the many accolades he gained in high school, all the state championships he won and all the justifiable hype he's coming to BYU with, Heaps understands that it means nothing until he does the same in college.

"I'm a freshman that has to earn the respect of my teammates," said Heaps about the attitude he'll be arriving in Provo with. "I've done nothing in college and college is a totally different game. I'm not going to come in with a sense of entitlement and [instead] with the attitude that I need to earn everything, because I do. Nothing is given you and when you come down to it, I'm just a freshman that has done nothing in college. Any respect I hope to get has to be earned not by what I did in high school, but from what I do from day one when I arrive on campus. I‘m starting from the bottom and need to work my way to the top."

Heaps won't be arriving for about another month, as he has to complete finals and compete in the Army All-American bowl game. He will enroll on January 18, while Ross Apo will be arriving January 11 and Kyle Van Noy arriving the week before that.

"It's a little weird that I'll be getting there after those guys since I'm the one who pushed them to join me at BYU," Heaps said. "So when I get there, they'll be the ones showing me around and how things are done."

When he does arrive he'll go about his work with the same attitude and work ethic that helped him to accomplish everything he did in high school.

"I'm confident in my abilities for sure," said Heaps. "I plan to just go about my work with a quiet confidence while realizing that everything I hope to get has yet to be earned as far as respect from my teammates, coaches and from fans. High school is over, it's finished, and college is a much different game. It‘s faster and it's going to be a challenge. I'm a Cougar now and it feels great. It's been a long and hard process to get here, but I'm relieved that it's over even though it's a bit surreal for me now. I can't wait to get there."

Other Cougars

Joining Heaps, Apo and Van Noy will be offensive lineman Famika Anae, tight end/defensive end Devin Mahina and wide receiver Marcus Mathews, who all recently returned from LDS missions after signing with BYU out of high school. Mendenhall mentioned that at least one other return missionary will be joining the January enrollments, and the announcement of at least one of them could be made as early as Friday.

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