Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BYU football: Linebacker Zac Stout returns to Cougars with new focus, attitude

By Brandon Gurney, Deseret News

Published: Fri, March 21 9:25 p.m. MDT

 Zac Stout (#10) and Bryan Engstrom practice with the BYU football team at BYU in Provo on Saturday, Aug.  4, 2012.

Zac Stout (#10) and Bryan Engstrom practice with the BYU football team at BYU in Provo on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012.

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

PROVO — It’s not so much how you start something, but how you finish.

That's a principle BYU linebacker Zac Stout fully believes. He's determined to finish out his career at BYU on a high note after experiencing some definite lows.

The lows came far too often for the Oaks Christian (Calif.) High product over his first few seasons in Provo. A slew of injuries held him back, along with some off-the-field social and academic issues. Those off-the-field issues reached a crescendo when a security camera caught him engaged in a fight at a Rancherito's restaurant in the fall of 2012.

The result of the incident saw Stout dismissed from the team, and his long-term prospects in Provo were very much in doubt.

A little over a year later, Stout is now back with the team after accomplishing the academic and social goals given to him by BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and is competing for a spot at Mike linebacker this spring.

“It feels great and I’m still trying to get better every day,” Stout said. “I’m doing different things — trying to get my legs back mainly — but it feels great to be back out there with the guys again.”

Getting back wasn't an easy process as Stout had to make some big changes with his approach and attitude. Helping every step of the way was a good support group, including position coach Paul Tidwell.

“Coach Tidwell was definitely texting me a lot, which really helped me (keep) my head up and get me in the right direction whenever my head was down,” Stout said. “He’s a great coach and I love Coach Tidwell. He’s just there for all of us players and he has our back no matter what. ... He’s almost like a father.”

Stout admits to experiencing many emotional ups and downs during the year he was away, but believes the whole process ultimately benefitted him.

“It was a great blessing in my life,” Stout said about being away for a full year. “It was a hard time, but it was a good time. I enjoyed it actually.”

As for Tidwell, he's excited to have Stout back — not just for football reasons.

“I was probably more excited for the changes he’s made in his life and for the young man that he is,” Tidwell said. “I was just happy to see him do the things that were asked of him by Coach Mendenhall and by the university to get back in good standing. ... I was just happy to see his life changes.”

Now that he's back, Stout is slowly but surely regaining the form he showed as a promising four-star recruit from one of the top high school programs in the country. Coaches believe he'll be completely up to speed by August.

As for his attitude and overall work ethic, Stout believes he's made great strides.

“I want it so much more,” Stout said. “I wanted it then, but it’s almost as if my picture’s clearer on what I need to do and how I need to do it.”

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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1. poyman
Lincoln City, OR,
March 22, 2014

I love these turn around stories... Sports and great coaches can make a major impact in a young man's life that is far more important than winning football or basketball games... I wish the best for you Mr. Stout and I will look forward to following you as a fan.

2. SLCWatch
Salt Lake City, UT,
March 22, 2014

I for one looked forward to Zack's career. I while appreciate more the upward trend in his life... which after all is said and done is the whole purpose of football, college, careers and living on earth. Welcome back Zac, were all pulling for you.

3. buryme
Mesa, AZ,
March 22, 2014

This has the makings of a very excellent feel good story. Best of luck Zac. Redemption is a wonderful thing.

4. runnerguy50
Virginia Beach, Va,
March 22, 2014

I'm not sure I agree with Bronco on this one. It sounds like bringing this kid back was in the works the whole time if the asst coach kept in contact with the player. That was an ugly incident and warranted being kicked out of the school for good. If it were not for the fact that this kid plays football he would never be on campus again.

5. idablu
Idaho Falls, ID,
March 22, 2014

If he is healthy, Stout can be very, very good. He could fill in very nicely at MLB.