PROVO — Compared to the other true freshmen participating in BYU's fall camp, McKay Jacobson is already a seasoned veteran.
The speedy wide receiver has been on campus since January after graduating early from Southlake Carroll High in Southlake, Texas, where he finished his prep career with 201 catches for 3,019 yards and 30 touchdowns and earned 5A Texas wide receiver of the year honors as a senior.
Jacobson, 18, competed in the Cougars' spring drills and completed a semester of school.
"I know what those younger guys are going through," he said of the other members of the freshmen class. "I'm just a little bit ahead. Being here (since January) has helped tremendously. I feel real comfortable out here. There are a few wrinkles I'm still learning, but my teammates have helped a lot."
The heavily recruited Jacobson committed to coach Bronco Mendenhall in May 2005, prior to his senior year, and took extra classes during the summer. But it wasn't until October, following a visit to Provo, that he decided to finish high school early and get a jump-start on his college career.
"That's when I knew I wanted to be up here in January. It was a big sacrifice," said Jacobson, whose high school team posted a 63-1 record in his four years. "Did I miss out on some things? Yes. But I think I gained more by being up here and getting acclimated and getting used to everything. It feels like I've been up here forever. It was good for me. I missed out on my senior year in track, but that's about it."
The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder wasted little time making an impact on BYU's program. While Jacobson still was, essentially, a high school senior, he established himself as the fastest player on the team last winter. He also impressed the veterans with his work ethic in the weight room.
"You see a lot of kids straight out of high school that are really cocky and they think they know everything and they're really just an average player," said tight end Daniel Coats. "But McKay came out and he wanted to learn from anybody. He was probably the hardest worker this summer, trying to learn (the offense) and just trying to become the best he can as fast as he can. We give him a lot of crap because everybody else out of Texas is like, 'Texas this and Texas that.' But he's really quiet and he makes plays. We always make fun of him like he's like that, but he's not."
Coaches are counting on Jacobson being a playmaker and stretching the field. With the departure of Todd Watkins, Jacobson (and his 4.3 speed in the 40) provides the Cougars with a viable deep threat.
"I played inside receiver in high school," Jacobson said. "Playing outside, it's really the same, but there are little things here and there, and little things make a big difference."
Jacobson was recruited by Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Purdue, Minnesota, Colorado State, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Florida State, Arizona, Arizona State, TCU and Stanford, to name a few. Florida State, Baylor and Texas Tech recruited him to run track, too.
After committing to BYU, Wisconsin offered him a scholarship, but most of the other schools backed off.
Though he's never played a down of college football, Jacobson isn't going to sneak up on anybody. In July, he was named the Mountain West Conference's preseason freshman of the year.
"It's an honor to get the award. Obviously, a lot of people have high expectations for me. I have high expectations for myself," he said. "Most important is winning. That's the only thing that really matters. As a receiver, you want to help your team any way you can to win. If you get 10 catches for 200 yards and a couple of touchdowns and you lose, it doesn't matter. All that really matters is winning.
"That's our goal. I still feel like I have a lot to prove. I'm getting better and I'm excited for the opportunity to contribute to the team. The only expectation that I'm worried about is my own. I feel like I have high expectations for myself and my team."
If Jacobson meets those expectations, there will be inevitable comparisons to Austin Collie, who was the MWC's freshman of the year in 2004, catching 53 passes for 771 yards and eight touchdowns at BYU. Collie is currently serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I remember him a little bit," Jacobson said. "I'll never be Austin Collie. I'm my own person. I'm going to work and compete and try to help my team win."
Jacobson, who turns 19 in October, is also planning on leaving for an LDS mission after the season.
Until then, Mendenhall plans to take full advantage of Jacobson's speed as often as possible — including the possibility of utilizing him on kick returns.
"My intent is to use McKay Jacobson in every way possible for us to win," Mendenhall said. "I hope he's tired at the end of the game."