BYU offers star Samoan linebacker

Trajan Pili was one of the top performers, if not the top, at the All-Poly Camp and BYU's summer camp over the past two years. After giving him a verbal offer a year ago, Coach Mendenhall made it official on Thursday by extending an offer to the 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound outside linebacker from Centennial High School in Las Vegas.

Last year at the All-Poly Camp, Trajan Pili was heading into his sophomore year, but that didn't stop him from being one of the better performers. His performance this year was much the same. His athleticism and technique showed through during position drills, and he dominated camp participants in team scrimmaging in front of many Division I college coaches.

Then it was onto BYU's summer camp, where Pili performed in front of BYU's coaching staff. At the end of Thursday's camp, Pili and his mother Becky were called into Coach Mendenhall's office for a discussion. It was then that Pili received the offer from Mendenhall.

"It was a great honor for me because Coach Mendenhall is such a great coach and a great man," said Pili. "When we came into his office, he explained the bigger picture of BYU, not just the football perspective, but to show to the world a higher standard, a great college, a great education and a great football tradition.

"The offer from BYU is such a great honor because it allows me to have two things that I love to do, and that's football and church. It allows me to go on my mission and still have that scholarship and play football and represent the things I love on the football field."

When Coach Mendenhall extended her son a full-ride scholarship offer to represent his program, a flood of thoughts flowed through Becky's mind.

"You know, of course I was so proud of Trajan because he's worked hard," said Becky. "He's worked really hard to be able to play and get his education paid for and play ball, so as a mother I was so proud of him. Then as you're sitting there, you have a lot of thoughts because he could have choices of schools.

"So, I had a lot of thoughts on where would I want my son to go to school, and what sort of place where I would want my son to be at. Those were some of the things that were running through my head as I was listening to the coaches talk.

"We were very flattered and very excited for the offer. You can only hope that things go well for your children, so when Trajan got the offer it was very exciting and overwhelming. It was also humbling. You know, that's quite an offer for a boy who is just starting his junior year. It was just very humbling, and you get taken back by their kind words about your son."

Meanwhile, her son holds Coach Mendenhall in very high esteem.

"He has such a strong testimony of the gospel," Pili said. "Pretty much Heavenly Father helps him to be where he has to be as a football coach, and many people in Utah look up to him as a mentor because he has such a big job where he probably gets overwhelmed a little sometimes. But, he's been able to really establish BYU's unique identity to the world despite that and is doing a great job right now carrying on with the mission."

"Football-wise, I had my mind on what direction I needed to go, but I wasn't prepared for how nice the Spirit was," said Becky. "Coach Mendenhall is a good man with a good heart who knows football, and that's a big combination. That's not found everywhere."

The Pili family is a strong LDS family living in Las Vegas. If there ever was a football player that fits BYU and Coach Mendenhall's football mission, it's Trajan Pili.

"I think BYU football is a good missionary tool," said Pili. "When we win a national championship, it will open a lot of people's eyes knowing you can live right and have good standards. You don't have to be like those colleges like Ohio State and USC who don't do things right to be successful. I think BYU is a very good missionary tool and example to others, and I think that's why there's football at BYU."

Becky Pili agrees with her son's assessment concerning the purpose and mission of BYU football.

"I think the thing that stood out the most to me – being members of the [LDS] Church – when sitting in Coach Mendenhall's office was how the mission of BYU is a lot bigger than just football games," said Becky. "The type of players that play at BYU have to coincide with the principles of the gospel. It coincides with our own family values and that's what stood out to us. The players that he brings into his program, their value system has to coincide with the mission of the school, and that's to live a higher standard based on the higher morals and principles.

"When you're out there playing a game and the school is represented through a football team, it's not only nice when we can win but we can show the world a little bit about values and the gospel. It enables a lot of missionary work to be done, and Coach Mendenhall was talking to Trajan about that and the caliber he felt Trajan is and how well he would fit within the program. That, as a mother, stood out to me that he would recognize my son to be, yes, a great football player, but also a young man who could fill that spot and be a great example as he's out there in the world."

As previously mentioned, Pili was one of the top performers at the recent All-Poly Camp.

"I think some of my strengths as a football player are I'm very fundamental in how I play," Pili said. "I'm not the kind of guy who's a loudmouth, and I let the pop of my pads to the talking. Overall, I think I'm pretty good but I don't want to be cocky or anything like that. I just want to stay humble."

The following week during the BYU camp, Pili let his pads do the talking, which resulted in a scholarship offer for the 2013 class.

"I did really good," Pili said. "The one thing that actually stood out to me was how good the coaching was. It was really easy for me to pick up the drills and to learn what they where teaching.

"Coach Poppinga is probably one of the best coaches I've ever been coached by. When he explained to me something, I picked it up just like that. With other coaches, it's always a little shady when they try to explain things. It's never that way with Coach Poppinga and always easy to understand and learn from."

This week, an honored and grateful Pili family had plans of heading up to Temple Square to visit the Salt Lake Temple. With a prayer in his heart, and two years of high school football left to play, Trajan Pili will discuss the BYU offer with his mother and father. Once they feel they've received a confirmation, a decision will be made.

"I'm just going to go and pray with my family," he said. "I'll know where I want to go when I receive an answer. I'll also take into consideration my family's perspective and then pray about it before I make my final decision."

"Once that happens there's no looking back," said Becky.


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