Provo • If BYU cornerback Preston Hadley didn't love football, he might have given up at Pleasant Grove High School, where he didn't play much until his senior year.
If Hadley didn't own a major-league work ethic, he probably would have surrendered at Snow College, where he walked on but was cut during his first attempt to make the team.
"I felt what it was like to be done [playing] and I didn't want that feeling," Hadley said. " … I just couldn't imagine not playing football."
Instead of being discouraged, the initial failure fueled Hadley's competitive furnace.
He stayed at Snow on the leadership scholarship and tried out for football again during spring practice of his freshman year.
After a winter in the weight room, he made the team.
"I'll never forget that first fall at Snow, not playing," Hadley said. "I thought it was bad when I was in high school and split time on the J.V. team. It was bad watching from the sideline. But it was worse watching from the stands, knowing you couldn't play."
Shortly after making the team at Snow, Hadley put football on hold to serve an LDS Church mission in New York.
When he returned, Hadley became a starter for the Badgers.
In November, he was named the national junior college defensive player of the week after Snow's 47-11 win over Pima.
As Hadley developed on the field, a handful of four-year colleges noticed. He started getting a few recruiting letters, something that never happened out of high school.
"I was a late bloomer, I guess," he said.
BYU recruited Hadley, but so did Utah State, Washington State, Kent State, New Mexico and New Mexico State. Northwestern also joined the crowd, but late.
In the end, Hadley's decision came down to BYU or Washington State.
"I knew about BYU, obviously," he said. "But I also thought it would be a good experience to leave the state and play for a Pac-12 team."
Eventually, Hadley decided to stay close to home and his family.
"This felt like a good fit," he said. "I like the coaches. We all believe the same thing. They believe hard work trumps talent and I think I'm a hard worker. So I thought I would get a chance to prove myself."
It didn't take long for Hadley to endear himself to the BYU coaches.
Like one day.
"Preston has been a starter from the minute he came into our program and won every conditioning drill the very first day," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. " … He is a work-ethic player with just enough ability. I believe we are playing the boundary corner spot at a higher level than we did a year ago."
At BYU, Hadley wears No. 7 because there are seven other members of his family, including his parents and five siblings.
Like him, all the children are adopted.
"A lot of people doubted me," Hadley said. "But my family stood by my side. It's funny, now that I'm succeeding a little, people say they were with me the whole time. But along the way, I didn't see them, just my family and some friends."
BYU plays Central Florida on Friday, just six days after losing to rival Utah, 54-10.
According to Hadley, a disastrous second half against the Utes has been forgotten.
"As a [defensive back], you're going to get beat sometimes," he said. "You have to have amnesia. It's the same case here. Just move on, play hard and play like we know we can play."
Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn completed 16 of 31 passes for 239 yards against BYU.
He threw a 30-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter to give the Utes a 14-10 lead, and his 59-yarder just after halftime started the second-half blitz.
Still, Mendenhall remains confident in Hadley and his secondary.
"They are still learning," he said. " … But they are eager, they are teachable and they are aggressive. I think with those characteristics, we will be able to fine-tune them and keep helping them improve."
Preston Hadley file
Position • Cornerback
Height • 6-0
Weight • 200
Class • Junior
High School • Pleasant Grove
Junior College • Snow
Notes • All-region as a senior at Pleasant Grove. … Also lettered in track (sprints, high jump). … Enrolled at Snow College and was a football walk-on. … Served an LDS Church mission in New York. … In 2010, was a team captain. … Helped Snow capture a conference championship, win the Top of the Mountain Bowl and finish as the No. 7 team in the country. … Also recruited out of Snow by Washington State, Utah State, Northwestern and others. … Started BYU's first three games.
BYU opponents' game-by-game passing stats
Opp Att-Comp Yds TDs Int Long Result
Ole Miss 15-28 144 0 0 24 W, 14-13
Texas 12-20 123 0 2 26 L, 17-16
Utah 16-31 239 2 1 59 L, 54-10
Central Florida at BYU
P Friday, 6 p.m.
TV • ESPN