Providence Shines On Brigham Young Cougars Football?

Current Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps was the ESPN Rise Elite 11 MVP in 2009. Just two years later, another BYU quarterback commit has been named MVP of the Elite 11—Tanner Mangum. If it isn’t obvious enough, this is HUGE! It isn’t just huge for BYU, huge for the 2012 recruiting class, or huge for Mangum. Landing two Elite 11 MVP quarterbacks in a three year period is huge for any NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school.

With the Elite 11 MVP on their resumes, Heaps and Mangum could have their pick of any school in the nation. It makes you marvel that both of them would choose BYU over the elite powers of college football. A closer look at how this happened makes you question whether the hand of Providence has been involved, and if so, why?

Let’s be upfront about one thing. It is a general rule that recruits at the top of their position listing don’t grow up dreaming of playing at BYU. BYU doesn’t invest much to recruit them, either. However, there is one exception—a recruiting wild card.

With its affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU is automatically added to a stud high school football player’s list of schools if he belongs to this church. Loyalty between church members and the Provo, Utah, campus can be very strong, yet even the loyalty that this affiliation brings isn’t enough in some cases. In 2009, Manti Te’o was rated by as the #2 inside linebacker recruit, and #12 overall recruit. He ended up signing with Notre Dame over BYU. In the upcoming 2012 class, Vince Biegel, church member and son of former BYU standout Rocky Biegel, who rates as the #8 outside linebacker in the nation, #95 player overall, and #1 recruit in all of Wisconsin, has verbally committed to the Wisconsin Badgers.

Both Heaps and Mangum come from families that are members of The Church of Jesus Christ. While Heaps had grown up a Washington Huskies fan and planned to play college ball there, he had a feeling inside that kept telling him BYU was the right place. In the end, that feeling inside won out and Heaps came to BYU. Would he have listened to that feeling (or maybe he doesn’t have that feeling at all) if he didn’t already know and fit into the BYU culture?

Mangum is fully committed to doing what so many BYU football players do, and step aside from the game for two years to serve as a missionary for his church. The missionary program that BYU so fully embraces is decried by some in college football as a competitive advantage. However, when these opponents to the missionary program have the opportunity to reap the fruits of it by having one of their own players leave for two years to serve, they seldom accommodate the player. For Mangum, BYU must have looked very attractive, since it was a place that would allow him to both play major college football and take two years to serve his church.

BYU can’t use its location as a recruiting tactic to attract these Elite 11 MVPs, like some schools in California, Texas, and Florida can. In fact, neither Heaps nor Mangum are from Utah, so rule out local preference as a factor in the recruiting process as well. The only real explanation as to why BYU could land two Elite 11 MVPs in three years is because of their families’ connection with The Church of Jesus Christ.

Is it merely a coincidence? That is a valid question. The best way to start answering it is to consider the odds of everything that has lined up in this situation:

1. A boy was born to two parents who would raise him up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
2. This same boy must be born with the right genes to have both the physical and mental tools necessary to be a great quarterback.
3. This same boy must be exposed to football and be given the opportunities to develop his talents in this game.

Repeat those three steps to get your second Elite 11 MVP.

Add to these odds the timeframe when these Elite 11 MVPs will play for BYU. Heaps, the first MVP has come to BYU and assumed the starting role just in time for BYU to make the jump to independence. A jump that will put them in front of the entire nation on ESPN 10 times in 2011. BYU’s move to independence will greatly benefit by getting off to a good, if not great, start. Who better to lead that start then an Elite 11 MVP?

The final year of BYU’s eight-year television contract with ESPN will be 2018. Mangum will be either a junior or a senior in 2018, and in his second season as the starting QB. Who else besides an Elite 11 MVP would you want quarterbacking the offense in the year that ESPN is deciding whether to renew its contract with BYU, and how lucrative to make that deal?

The way all of this aligns is rather impressive. It is rather hard to rule out that Providence has not been involved. So once again, the question becomes, “Why?” Is the future success of BYU football really that important? Is there something deeper about BYU that the average college football fan needs to know? These are tough questions, and it will probably take the next eight years to find a satisfactory answer. In the mean time, it can't hurt to tune in and watch BYU play. It should be worth the time with the quality of product that BYU will be putting out on the field.

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