LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It was early September, right before the 2015 football season, and offensive lineman Caden Haws had made up his mind to call BYU coaches and verbally accept the scholarship they'd offered him almost six months prior. But there was a problem. Then BYU offensive line coach, Garett Tujague, was planning a call on the very same day with some devastating news.
"He let me know that they had to pull my offer," Haws related. "It was a very hard day, as you could imagine. It was a tough conversation for both of us."
Haws is a 6-foot-2, 292-pound offensive line prospect from Pulaski Academy, which won back-to-back state titles in 2014 and 2015. While starting at center, Haws was named his team's MVP while garnering first-team all-state recognition.
His film shows a brand of physical, often dominant play, which captured BYU coaches' attention almost a year ago from the day he finally committed to sign.
"When BYU offered me it was a great moment because that was my first one," Haws said. "I've since had offers from Army, Navy, Air Force and had some interest from other schools, but BYU was the first school and I really liked having the opportunity to play for them."
Despite that desire, Haws and his family decided to play out the recruiting process a bit before making his final decision, unaware at the time that the option to sign with BYU might be pulled away from him.
"It was tough going through everything, making up my mind, and then all of a sudden finding out that I didn't have the option to make the decision I wanted to," Haws said.
Fortunately for Haws, he was able to get in touch with another BYU coach the Monday before his official visit to BYU (Jan. 21-24.) The coach calling this time was new offensive line coach Mike Empey, who was named as a BYU assistant just days prior to the phone call.
"It was a great conversation, and we chatted for about half an hour," Haws recalled. "He told me they wanted to give me an official visit out there and I jumped at the chance."
Unfortunately for Haws, while the rest of the prospects took part in a full slate of activities that weekend, he spent a good portion of the trip in bed, feeling quite sick at exactly the wrong time. He did participate in most of the important activities, which included meeting with new head coach Kalani Sitake for the first time.
"I loved being around Coach Sitake, and it's just a different feel with them than it was with the old coaching staff," Haws said. "I mean, I loved and respected the old coaching staff, but the new one — it's just easier to be around them and it's more relaxed. I really love the new coaching staff and I can't wait to play for them."
Haws also grew to really love and respect his future position coach.
"Coach Empey knows his stuff, and he's real easy to be around and relate to as well," Haws said. "It's going to be great to learn from him while I'm there."
Haws is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has definite plans to serve a mission. Whether he'll serve right out of high school or after one year of playing is yet to be decided, however.
Since he committed to BYU, and after fans and media poured over his recruiting highlights, many have likened his tenacious play and technique to that of current starting center Tejan Koroma. Koroma, who prepped at Texas powerhouse Allen High School, started as a true freshman, something Haws, or anyone else for that matter, would be hard-pressed to do.
"I met Tejan last summer when I took an unofficial visit to BYU, and he's great," Haws said. "Any comparison to him is a huge honor for me and it's been great and humbling seeing fans compare us. I just want to get to BYU and develop into the best player I can be and we'll see what happens. I'm just so grateful to have the opportunity."