CHANDLER, Ariz. — BYU coach Kalani Sitake is well-known for his ability to connect instantly and build strong relationships, and did as much with four-star quarterback Jacob Conover during a football camp almost two years ago.
Conover, who announced his decision to sign with BYU on Sunday, recalls the first meeting with the Cougar head coach well. He said the impression that was left was one of the big reasons he committed to BYU over other top programs.
“When we went to talk it wasn’t really about football, and I loved that,” Conover said of the meeting back in June 2016. “The main subject was about the person you were going to become and he wants to develop his players as not just great football players, but as people who will make a difference in society. That really stood out.”
Conover quickly developed into one of the most highly sought-after quarterback prospects in the country after that meeting. Boosting his recruiting profile was his play on the field, which included leading Chandler to two straight state championships while accumulating 6,792 yards passing, 64 touchdowns and just seven interceptions despite missing four games last season due to injury.
The 6-foot, 185-pound prospect soon found himself fielding offers from programs such as Alabama, Arizona State, Arizona and Washington State, among several others, although BYU remained on the forefront of his thoughts.
“We’re just a BYU family and BYU has really been my dream school since I was young,” Conover said. “I’ve cheered for BYU for a long time, and I know they’ve had some ups and downs, but it happens. Rough patches happen, but I know BYU is on the right path. I love the direction of coaches and I fully trust Kalani.”
The Cougars have seldom experienced lows like they did during the 2017 season, which makes Conover’s decision to commit surprising to some, when considering his other options. But for him, the commitment wasn’t entirely a football decision, although he firmly believes BYU will rebound and again produce big offensive numbers.
“You have to look at it for more than just football when choosing your school,” Conover said. “BYU will prepare me best for things outside of football, which is really important to me.”
Also important to Conover is developing spiritually, as well as athletically. For this reason he elected to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and plans to do so before enrolling at BYU. He came to the decision after discussing the option with former Arizona State and Dallas Cowboy quarterback Danny White, who did not serve a mission despite belonging to the LDS faith.
“His perspective was he used football as his mission, and that was his platform to share the gospel, so that was in my mind,” Conover said. “But I prayed, and left it in the hands of the Lord, and my answer came back as clear as day. I knew I was supposed to serve a mission, and I haven’t looked back.”
Upon his return he hopes to perhaps emulate the accomplishments of both Max Hall and John Beck, who are from the Phoenix area, with the latter proving one of the most successful quarterbacks in history after serving a full LDS Church mission.
Upon his return he hopes to pair with fellow Chandler standout and receiver Gunner Romney in putting up big offensive numbers while operating effectively in new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes’ offense.
“I love coach Grimes and I love how he’s all business,” Conover said. “I’ve been in touch with him a lot since he got to BYU and I trust him, much like I trust Kalani. I also love coach (Aaron) Roderick, and I know I’ll be learning from great coaches when I’m there.”
Conover plans to sign with BYU during the early signing period and will embark on his LDS Church mission soon after. He’ll likely return from his mission prior to the 2021 season.