Wayne Kirby’s father passed away May 28.
Twenty-nine days later, Kirby committed to play football for BYU. He did it for his dad.
“I felt in my heart that it was the right decision to make. I knew that’s where my dad would want me to go,” Kirby said. “That’s where the rest of my family wants me to go, and ultimately that’s where I wanted to go to.”
The Rams senior defensive lineman called BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi on Friday to deliver the news. The Cougars had offered Kirby a scholarship June 20 after he participated in a football camp in Provo, Utah.
At first, Kirby, a 3-star prospect according to Scout.com, said he wanted to wait to commit until after he completed his senior season. He had offers to consider from the likes of Washington State, Army and Idaho (among others), and more programs would have entered the fold.
But six days after the Cougars’ initial offer, Kirby decided to put an end to his college recruitment. When he visited BYU, he sensed the presence of his dad. BYU was his favorite team. He loved the Cougars.
“I know how happy he would be and the smile on his face if he was still here to know that I was going to his favorite place,” Kirby said.
Kirby’s father had health issues Wayne’s entire life. It was a combination of factors, Kirby said. Diabetes, heart and kidney failure and a host of issues Kirby never fully understood. To have known his dad for the first 17 years of his life was a gift.
But there were times when he took his dad for granted. Kirby was a stubborn teenager and the relationship with his dad fell apart at one point.
He loved his father, though, and his passing has helped the 6-foot-3, 302-pound defensive tackle realize everything his dad provided.
Kirby, his three brothers and mother were there at the end. During his dad’s final breaths, they formed a circle around his bed and bawled. Kirby held his dad’s hand and said goodbye.
“When he was gone, I realized how much I loved him and how much of an example he was to me,” Kirby said. “Now I know why he was here. He was here to set an example for me and do what he did to help me grow up and become the best man I can be.”
Kirby believes the Cougars provide the chance for him to fulfill his potential. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall told Kirby a story about David and Goliath. In Mendenhall’s view, it’s not a tale of David, a smaller, weaker opponent upsetting a Goliath, a bigger, stronger behemoth.
Instead it’s a story about a man, David, who could adjust to any situation and succeed. That’s what Kirby wants in his life.
“What he was telling me was he just wants me to be prepared to (go) into life and become a man and become ready and prepared for whatever obstacles come into my life when I go to BYU,” Kirby said.
Although he has committed to the Cougars, it’s a non-binding agreement until a National Letter of Intent is signed next February. But don’t expect Kirby to keep talking to other colleges.
He said it’s a relief to end the recruiting process. Now he can move forward and focus on his senior season. The Rams are the defending 5A state champions and haven’t lost a game since 2013.
“My life decisions are being based off of being the best man I can be and what college can help me become the best man I can be,” Kirby said. “And I feel like that was BYU.”