Ryan Hancock sank into a chair in the BYU sports information office and confirmed that, yes, negotiations with the California Angels have reached the snag stage. He was wearing a t-shirt and shorts but he wasn't wearing a long face. The relief pitcher almost looked relieved. If Plan A wasn't working out he could always switch to the other Plan A.
"I know saying this will scare a lot of people, particularly the ones who worked on my knee," said Hancock. "But I am still interested in playing football if that remains an option."Time heals all wounds, including the right knee Hancock destroyed last fall during the final quarter of the season's final football game at the University of Utah. That was not a pleasant day for Hancock. BYU qualified for the Aloha Bowl and he qualified for ACL surgery. As soon as they found a donor, they operated, throwing out the ligament that was torn apart and replacing it with new parts. The bowl game was gone for Hancock. So, it appeared, was the upcoming baseball season.
But Hancock, who had made a meteoric appearance as BYU's starting quarterback after the two players ahead of him on the depth chart (John Walsh and Steve Clements) were injured, made a similar splash in the rehabilitation room. He healed quickly. By the second half of BYU's baseball season he was back on the mound, throwing as hard as ever. He had four saves and two wins in nine appearances and 30 strikeouts in 23 innings. The J.U.G.S. guns were again humming. The scouts were again drooling.
He was the third player selected in the second round of baseball's June draft. English translation: We still want you. Further English translation: Forget the other sport, the one that crushes knees and has the lifespan of a cocker spaniel that chases bulldozers.
Hancock managed to forget about football for a time as he returned home to Cupertino, Calif., hired an agent and went about becoming a semi-wealthy man overnight. He knew that early second-round baseball draftees could expect to sign for close to a quarter-million dollars, and that didn't sound too bad.
But then reality hit. There was a difference between the figure he and his agent settled on and the figure the Angels wanted to pay. "Not that much of a difference," said Hancock. "But enough to make things a little bit contentious, you could say."
So a week ago, instead of packing his bags and moving to Boise, Idaho, to begin his professional baseball career in the Northwest League, Hancock packed his bags and returned to Provo, where he has mingled again with his motor scooter, his girlfriend, his former teammates - the old environment.
The move, quite naturally, got him thinking about football again - about posting a 7-1 record as a starter last season (and the "1" was in South Bend against Notre Dame); about finishing fourth in the nation in passing efficiency and fourth in the nation in total yards (despite the fact he didn't play in a fourth of the games); about the loaded offense BYU has returning this season.
Enough thinking to make him think the unthinkable: Going through two-a-days again.
"If I haven't signed by August I'll have to consider going back out for football," he said. "The knee is great. That's no problem. I'll have to prove it to them (the football coaches). But they'll see."
Sensing that perhaps he should explain himself further, Hancock did.
"I'm the first to admit I had more fun than I ever could have imagined last year playing football," he said. "I even grew through my experience being injured. I used to think I was invincible. Now I've learned I'm not and I have to work hard. If I have to leave football behind I'll miss it a lot. In the meantime, I can't just sit around and do nothing. I guess I could handle not playing football if I sign for baseball. But if I just sit around and don't do either I'll probably go crazy."
The best of all worlds would be if he could play football again this fall and still sign with the Angels. That would be OK with BYU, but not with the Angels, who will no doubt print a "no football" clause in indelible ink when and/or if they come to terms with BYU's answer to Deion Sanders.
In the meantime, Hancock is putting the best spin on his limbo. There are worse decisions for a 21-year-old to be facing. His knee feels as good as ever. His fastball is still rising. His passes are still on target. And in Mel Kiper's latest NFL draft newsletter, he is projected to be the No. 2 quarterback taken if he plays until his eligibility runs out prior to the 1995 draft.
Football No. 2's command signing bonuses like baseball No. 2's . . . providing you add another zero.
Hancock smiles the smile of a man who has bargaining power. In a month he'll either be a pitcher who got the signing bonus he asked for or he'll still be a quarterback. Either way, who's about to be complain?