The dance has begun.
It's a shuffle of bodies.
Austin Collie is researching whether he should go to the NFL or return to BYU. Meanwhile, in Southlake, Texas, McKay Jacobson returned last Monday from an LDS mission in Sapporo, Japan.
A week ago, Jacobson was tracting in Odori in the northern-most part of the island of Hokkaido, but in a week he'll be in Provo ready to submit to BYU conditioning coach Jay Omer for a regimen of tough, intensive winter conditioning.
In the meantime, Jacobson, the last BYU football player to return a punt for a touchdown (2006 against Wyoming), has been hooking up with former Southlake players like Missouri quarterback Chase Daniels. Also joining in has been his brother-in-law Dustin Gabriel.
The two worlds Jacobson has lived in within a two-week period could not be more different. In Japan, the winter was cold and harsh and he was a preacher of Christianity in a culture immersed in Buddhism and Shintoism. Now he's catching footballs.
"Here in Texas, we had one day with 70-degree weather. I heard it's been snowing in Provo," said Jacobson.
The Cougars are expected to open up the 2009 season against Oklahoma in the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington, close to Jacobson's hometown, family and friends. While this game is not official, the thought excites Jacobson, who has some friends playing for the Sooners.
This game also excites Collie, if he decides to forgo the NFL and stay for his senior season.
"Right now, he's one confused puppy," said his father, Scott.
Collie has joined other sophomores and juniors around the country asking for an evaluation from the NFL. He should have research returned inside three weeks.
"It could take longer this year," said Scott, "because they're saying this year is the most evaluation of underclassmen they've ever had in the league."
The Collie-Jacobson shuffle represents one of the more dramatic exchanges of talent at the receiver position the Cougars have ever had. How it works out could be a huge factor in how the Cougar offense evolves this coming season.
It also underscores the drama of BYU athletes coming and going from missions. If Jacobson could return and produce like Collie did in 2007 when he came back from Argentina, it would be the exception, not the norm.
About half of BYU's football recruiting class of 2008 will depart for missions in coming months while a few, like Jacobson, return and try to re-establish their bodies and minds for the game.
Jacobson, who signed with the Cougars out of Southlake, Texas, played for the Cougars as a freshman before accepting a mission call to Japan after the 2006 season.
"I really enjoyed my mission. It was a great opportunity to give something back to the Lord," said Jacobson.
During the past two years, Jacobson — rated one of the top receivers in Texas in 2006 — got up at 6 a.m. each day and tried to exercise as much as he could. Recently, he tried to do sit-ups and push-ups, but he couldn't lift weights. He did get in some basketball games with his mission president, former BYU professor Lee Daniels.
"He was an older guy, about 50 or so. I guess he isn't that old, but it was fun," said Jacobson.
In his first year in Japan, Jacobson did join some missionaries playing American football against a Japanese club team. They won.
But that's the extent of his exercise.
"I'm about the same weight as I was before I left," said Jacobson. "Obviously, I've lost some of the muscle I had before."
But is he ready for Omer?
"I'm as ready as I can be," said Jacobson.
When Jacobson, a key star on the 2006 Texas 5A championship team, returns to BYU's football program after his two-year mission, he should be the fastest athlete on the team.
If not back already, others expected back from that 2006 BYU recruiting class include receiver Wren Brown, running back Mike Hague, defensive back Robbie Buckner, linebacker Brandon Ogletree, and linemen Jordan Richardson, Romney Fuga and Ryan Freeman.
Of the Class of 2008, Bronco Mendenhall has invested playing time in four linebackers, all of whom are expected to leave for church service in the next few months. They include Iona Pritchard, Michael Alisa and Spencer Hadley. Others from that class who will, or already have, mission plans include tight end Austin Holt, receiver Jake Murphy, kicker Justin Sorensen and linemen Solomone Kafu and Michael Yeck.
The mission dance continues.