LAWRENCE — Jake Heaps was once the top-ranked quarterback recruit in the country, the sort of species that has generally been foreign to Memorial Stadium.
He is strong-armed and confident, mature and married at the age of 21. And this can lead to some interesting moments of matrimony, when Heaps arrives home after practice and jumps on Facebook to do a little unofficial public relations work for the Kansas football program. Heaps, a junior transfer from BYU, would prefer to keep his wife, Brooke, happy. Who wouldn’t?
“She barely gets to see me enough,” Heaps says, smiling.
But this Facebook stuff is important. There are prospective recruits out there — maybe some receivers — that might like playing with a quarterback that Rivals.com graded out as the best pro-style prospect in the Class of 2010. So if Heaps has to let them know what it’s like at Kansas, or that he felt at home here after just a few months, he’s going to do it.
“I’m gonna give them my honest opinion,” says Heaps, who grew up outside Seattle.
But those conversations also include a hopeful tone. The Jayhawks may be 1-8, stuck in the Big 12 cellar. But Heaps wants to believe that there are more promising days ahead in Lawrence.
It’s part of what sold him on KU when Charlie Weis came calling last winter. It’s part of why Heaps has relished spending the season on the scout team, playing alongside fellow transfer and now close friend Justin McCay, a former Bishop Miege standout who spent two seasons at Oklahoma.
“I’ve never seen a guy work harder,” McCay said. “He may not be the best athlete, but he works his tail off.”
Heaps spent two seasons at BYU, setting freshman records for passing yards (2,316) and touchdowns (15), before losing the starting job during his sophomore year to junior Riley Nelson. Heaps needed a new start.
“This has all just been a great process for me,” Heaps said. “To be able to dissect myself and look back at my game and see what I can improve.”
For now, the only people that get to watch Heaps play are those present at KU’s practices. The best insider account: McCay has started calling him the “Mormon Cannon,” a nod to Heaps’ faith and arm strength.
“Let me tell you something,” Weis said. “He’s the (scout) team player of the week every week. We never give it to him, but it isn’t even close.
“Every week he’s the guy. That poor defense. You think that they get passes completed on them in the game, you should see this guy in practice.”
Before the season, Weis laid out a quarterback succession plan that had Heaps starting in 2013 after fellow transfer Dayne Crist served as a one-year bridge. Well, that was the plan until Crist struggled and was benched in favor of redshirt freshman Michael Cummings. Heaps will have to prove himself next season.
For now, though, he has tried to focus beyond learning Weis’ complex offense or adding muscle in the weight room. It’s also been about forging relationships. Heaps and McCay met nearly three years ago at an All-American game for top recruits. After his transfer, McCay requested an NCAA hardship waiver that would have allowed him to play this season. It was denied. But two positives came out of the disappointment.
McCay could spend a year off close to home. And it also meant that Heaps and McCay, two pieces of KU’s future, could bond together this season.
“I think you just grow with him,” McCay said. “I love the kid.”