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Return to Stanford a ‘surreal’ experience for BYU fullback Houston Heimuli

Graduate transfer was a team captain for the Cardinal, but has played a limited role for the Cougars in 2022

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BYU fullback Houston Heimuli poses for a portrait at Student Athlete Building in Provo on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

BYU fullback Houston Heimuli poses for a portrait at Student Athlete Building in Provo on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

For BYU fullback Houston Heimuli, the buildup to Saturday night’s game against Stanford has been surreal, and not just because the Cougars’ graduate transfer played for the Cardinal for four years and was a team captain the season before he left.

“I think I have used that term, surreal, for every experience this week — at BYU, going back there, everything,” Heimuli said. “But it is. I am going back to where I first played college football with a team where I first fell in love with football. I couldn’t ask for anything better than that.”

Heimuli hasn’t had the season at BYU that he envisioned when he enrolled last January, but he insists he has no regrets. He appeared in all 12 games this season, but almost solely on special teams.

“Every player wants to play more plays, and not everything is up to our expectations. However, it is about ‘what kind of role can you find and how can you benefit the team?’ It is not a sport where you want to bring other people down.” — BYU fullback Houston Heimuli.

Heading into Saturday’s game at Stanford Stadium, he hadn’t recorded a carry or a reception.

“Every player wants to play more plays, and not everything is up to our expectations. However, it is about ‘what kind of role can you find and how can you benefit the team?’ It is not a sport where you want to bring other people down,” Heimuli said Tuesday.

“Whatever role I could play, I tried my best 100 percent.”

Heimuli did have an impact in last week’s 52-26 win over Utah Tech, throwing a block in the waning moments that sprung receiver Terence Fall for a touchdown.

“It felt great to be out there running. I think I was running a 5.5 40, so Terence was having a hard time (keeping up),” he joked. “… That’s our pride, seeing whoever is behind me make the score. I am always happy seeing people succeed.”

With a degree from Stanford in hand, Heimuli almost certainly will succeed at life. He’s not certain yet whether he will go through Pro Day in March and pursue the NFL or join the working world.

“Life is an oyster,” he said. “I don’t know yet. The next two weeks I am going to do a lot of deliberating, for sure.”

As for this week, Heimuli said he hasn’t swapped texts with any of his former teammates. When he was at Stanford, he was the campus host for another Utahn on a recruiting visit, Stanford safety Scotty Edwards — who is an Olympus High graduate and picked the Cardinal over the Cougars, just as Heimuli did years ago.

Heimuli said he’s happy with that decision, which came even though his father, Lakei Heimuli, was a legendary BYU running back. 

“Oh yeah, Stanford was a place where I really learned to think outside the box and really find views that I had never had before,” he said.

“It shaped me intellectually into who I am and I give credit to Stanford’s staff as well. Coach (David) Shaw brought me over post-mission and I had a lot of growing up down there, and I appreciate them for that.”

Before the game, BYU coach Kalani Sitake told the BYU Sports Radio Network that Heimuli has expressed respect for Stanford all week.

“He’s got a lot of excitement and energy going into this game,” Sitake said.

Heimuli went into Saturday’s game with one wish in mind.

“Oh, a touchdown. Oh yeah, just a touchdown would be great. Or even leading a touchdown. I would be fine with any of the two. Just playing in that stadium and contributing is what I want to do,” he said.

And that would make it even more surreal.