SAN JOSE, Calif. — For Khari Vanderbilt, BYU’s latest football commitment, his recruitment to the program started long before Cougar coaches actually made contact.
It wasn’t through the traditional means of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affiliation that spurred Vanderbilt’s interest, but a unique promise made by a junior college coach.
Vanderbilt had all but decided to sign with Foothill College when he was approached by San Jose City defensive backs coach Fred Stewart.
“He told me that he got Robertson Daniel to BYU and that he’d do the same for me,” Vanderbilt related. “That sounded good to me, so I ended up signing with San Jose and it was a great decision.”
Vanderbilt was associated with Daniel growing up in San Jose and had watched BYU’s starting boundary corner of a season ago progress every step of the way. Daniel attended De Anza Junior College, where he was coached by Stewart before joining BYU’s program as a late signee prior to the 2013 season.
“You see what Rob (Daniel) has become as a player at BYU and it makes you want the same,” Vanderbilt said. “He’s let me know of what I can accomplish there, along with coach Stewart, so I guess I’ve had BYU in mind since I started playing in Junior College.”
Vanderbilt played well as a freshman and picked up strong interest from both BYU and Cal, as a result. He made an unofficial visit to Cal and was confident coaches there would offer before arriving at BYU for another unofficial visit.
While on his visit he linked up with Daniel and other Cougar players who made him feel at home.
“I was real comfortable there and really felt I was already part of the team,” Vanderbilt said. “There’s just a chemistry there I felt with everyone that made me think BYU was where I needed to be. It’s a program that’s focused on building great character and being a better person. It’s what I want.”
Toward the end of the visit Vanderbilt, along with his mother and brother, attended a barbecue attended by current players and coaches. As people shuffled out, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall sat down by the visiting family to chat.
“I honestly had no idea it was him when he started talking,” Vanderbilt said. “He went over everything he expects of his players and then I realized — man, this is coach Mendenhall. It was great talking with him and I love how he’s all direct and straightforward with you. Like that.”
Following the visit, Vanderbilt was met with an official offer, which he immediately accepted.
“BYU is the perfect place for me,” he said. “It has a great business program, which is what I want to study. I love the feel of the place and I think I have a good chance to contribute right away at safety. I can’t wait to get there.”
Vanderbilt will arrive at BYU in January 2015 after playing his final year for San Jose. He’ll then participate in spring practices where he’ll begin competing for a spot at safety for the 2015 season.