Jake Heaps Needs to “Just Do It”

You Can Do It Heaps!!!
You Can Do It Heaps!!! /



No fans in college football put more pressure on quarterbacks than BYU fans on BYU quarterbacks.  Can you blame them?  It’s tough to show sympathy to fans that grew up watching their quarterbacks become All-Americans, win Sammy Baugh trophies, Davey O’Brien trophies, Maxwell Awards, and even a Heisman Trophy.   After decades of witnessing their quarterbacks’ lead their BYU squads to conference championships, a National Championship, prestigious bowl wins, and an NCAA record book that has been re-written time and time again, it only fuels a fan’s desire to see more and more success.  The fans don’t just desire it… they expect it.  Let’s face it, BYU fans are and have been spoiled with a long list of successful quarterbacks.

Every new quarterback at BYU learns a few things about the football program: 1) The quarterback position always has big shoes to fill.  2) The fans expect the quarterback to fill them.  If BYU quarterbacks don’t display instant success on the field, you can almost guarantee 65,000 boo’s will hail down on them and chants for the backup quarterback will ring through LaVell Edwards Stadium. 
Sound familiar? 
If Jake Heaps hasn’t figured it out yet, the BYU faithful isn’t too pleased with his performance thus far.  After being benched midway through the 3rd quarter against Utah State last Friday night, Heaps watched from the sidelines as backup quarterback Riley Nelson led the Cougars to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Aggies.  Suddenly, there is a new hero in Provo.  Now is time for the question that we as impatient fans have been asking all month: What the heck happened to Jake Heaps?  Typically, a quarterback learns from his mistakes and gradually makes improvements every game.  Is that not what we saw from the young, true freshman quarterback last season?  It is clearly obvious that Jake Heaps is getting progressively worse every week this season against weaker opponents.  In 2010, Heaps showed signs of improvement and growth every week as he led BYU to 6 wins in their last 8 games including a bowl victory.  He seemed very comfortable in the offense and showed exciting potential.  He confirmed all his pre-season hype as the #1 recruited high school quarterback prospect in the country.  BYU fans simply could not wait to see his progression blossom into the 2011 season.  If you would have asked me back in August that Jake Heaps would be benched in the 5th game of the season against Utah State and that the BYU fans would be booing our five-star quarterback recruit and chanting the name of Riley Nelson, I would have called you crazy.  I suppose that is why so many BYU fans are confused right now.  Again, what the heck happened to Jake Heaps?
Jake Heaps has never faced adversity in his young football career.  As a high school quarterback, Heaps led his team to 3 straight state championships.  Second place was something that Jake had never experienced in high school.  Do you think that if you are leading your team to championships every year that your starting quarterback job would be in jeopardy?  Heaps has never had to worry about his starting job.  After Riley Nelson went out with a season-ending injury in 2010, the offense belonged to Jake Heaps.  There was no debate.  In 2010, Jake Heaps had nothing to lose.  BYU was already out of the running for the conference title after falling to Air Force and TCU.  The rest of our schedule was against the bottom feeders of the Mountain West Conference.  The starting job already belonged to Heaps going into 2011 after his solid performance to finish the 2010 season strong.  You have to imagine Jake Heaps has been walking around campus all offseason with a lot of swagger and confidence knowing the starting job was his.  How much work and adversity has Jake had to overcome to win that starting job?  How many times in his career has Jake been benched and sat in the shadows as a “backup quarterback”. 
Riley Nelson coming into that game against Utah State on Friday night is EXACTLY what Jake Heaps needs.  Not only Riley coming into the game, but bringing BYU back and winning the game in addition to winning the crowd over.  Quite frankly, I’m glad Jake gets to experience this.  He needs to be slapped in the face and woken up to the reality that the starting quarterback job is his to lose.  Perhaps this humbling experience will motivate Heaps to work a little harder at earning the job of a BYU starting quarterback.  Is there a worse feeling than being pulled from the game, hearing the boos of fans directed at you, and then watching the backup QB lead your team back to a victory over your rival on national television?  Do you think Jake Heaps wants to experience that again?  There is only one way to make sure something like that never happens again.  Go out and prove yourself on the field.  Not only to your teammates, but to us spoiled fans as well.
There is a crucial element that Jake Heaps lacks which holds him back from being a successful and consistent quarterback at BYU.  It is an element that every legendary BYU quarterback has.  The problem is I don’t know what to call this missing element.  Former BYU Outland Trophy winner Mo Elowonibi tries to describe this element when analyzing Ty Detmer.  Elowonibi says, “They always say the great quarterbacks have that intangible quality about them.  Like, you know, Joe Montana.  There’s something about him that makes him go that extra mile.  There’s something inside him that makes him different from everybody else.  That makes him better.  That makes him reach for that extra inch.  And I don’t know what that is.  I can’t pinpoint what that is.  But Ty Detmer has that.”  What is this intangible quality called that Ty Detmer had?  What is that element that makes Jim McMahon want to go in and “break every record that Marc Wilson ever set at BYU”?  What do you call that passion that motivated Steve Young to prove the world wrong that he was incapable of being a BYU-type quarterback?  How can you describe the performance of Brandon Doman late in games to never give up and always find a way to win?  Or the grit and determination that Max Hall had that kept him from taking a wimpy slide and taking on linebackers during a QB scramble?  Elowonibi goes on to say, “Some people have the heart—[Ty] has the heart as big as a house.  He’ll die out there before he gets off the field”. 
So is that what it is?  Is it heart?  Does Jake Heaps have the heart of a Champion?  Will Jake Heaps die out there before he gets off the field?  Would Jake Heaps take on a defender after his pass is intercepted or will he coward in the corner and wait for someone else to make the tackle.  Would Jake Heaps take a wimpy slide or would he fight for that extra inch?  Whatever that necessary element is, Jake Heaps does not have “it”.  On Friday night against the Aggies, it was clearly evident that backup quarterback Riley Nelson HAD “it”.  He found a way to win the game.  There was no fear in Nelson’s eyes.  He never gave up, even when he was faced with the ADVERSITY of driving 96 yards in two and a half minutes to lead his offense to a victory over his former school.  The BYU fans in that stadium could see that element in Nelson.  They could see glimpses of McMahon, Young, Detmer, Doman, and Hall.  You could taste it in the air.  Heck, you could even see it in his flowing locks of hair.  The only problem with Nelson at this point, is that the element is ALL that he has.  Let’s face it, Nelson has the heart of a champion inside him, he just doesn’t have the mechanics and skills that Jake Heaps has.  If BYU fans are banking off of Nelson to lead a successful BYU offense the rest of the season, they should prepare themselves for likely disappointment.  If Riley Nelson could give his heart to Jake Heaps, then we would definitely “be back in the quarterback business”. 
Bottom line is Jake Heaps needs to just buckle down and find that missing element.  There are no more excuses.  It exists deep down inside of him, but is hidden by fear, hesitation, and weakness.  His weakness comes from lack of adversity.  They say that trials will only make you stronger.  Jake needed to be humbled, and we all saw the humility as we watched him sit on the sidelines and watch through his little root beer barrel candy eyes as Riley did his job out on the football field.  Jake, we as fans believe in you—But you first need to believe in yourself.  Go out there and prove to us fans that you WANT this starting quarterback position at BYU.  Go out there and prove that you are capable of being a champion like you were in high school.  Follow the slogan from Nike and “Just Do It.”  Until then, expect spoiled BYU fans to rain boo’s down upon you, and enjoy the view from the sidelines.  Riley Nelson would be happy to take your job.

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