Texas linebacker hoping for BYU offer

Trinity High School outside linebacker Josh Saafi comes from a poor, humble home where his father has done his best to raise him and his five brothers and sisters all on his own. In an effort to help his father with his burdens, Saafi has made it a personal goal to earn a college scholarship.

During this past summer, Scout national recruiting analyst Greg Powers evaluated the talent within Trinity High School's powerhouse football program.

Regarding Josh Saafi, Powers wrote, "Little bit of a sleeper here who looks good after putting on a solid 15 pounds in the off-season. He did not get to play as much as a junior, but was one of the best players out there on the defense ...

"He has a really nice frame and moves well. Some schools looking for a player to fill that OLB/S type of position should definitely stop by and check him out. BYU is the only school on him so far and he camped there this summer. He will likely go on a mission after high school is done and return to football fray after."

It was over the summer that Saafi got his first glimpse of BYU after attended Junior Day with fellow Trinity athlete Lahi Kautai, who is the younger brother of BYU defensive back Teu Kautai.

"I went with Lahi Kautai, and that's when I really got a feel for what BYU is all about, and that's when I really loved BYU and became a true supporter," said Saafi. "I love Coach Mendenhall and the type of man and example he is and saw for myself that BYU really is a special place."

Last year Trinity finished the season 15-1 and ranked No. 17 nationally and second in the state of Texas. Things were going great for Saafi. The outside linebacker was starting for Trinity, a program well known in the state of Texas, with relative success.

"I was being looked at by a couple of colleges and coaches liked what they saw in me. I'm 6'3" and weigh around 220 pounds now, so they liked my size as an outside linebacker."

Saafi was excited when BYU coaches began showing interest in him. And last week, with BYU playing at Cowboys Stadium, the Cougar coaches encouraged him and some teammates to come watch the game.

"It was great because BYU invited me out to the TCU game," Saafi said. "I really wanted them to win too and was cheering for them to beat TCU. They not only invited me out to watch the game, but they also invited Paul Tuipulotu, who plays fullback for Trinity and is considered one of the best. Also Lahi Kautai, who is the brother of Teu Kautai, was with us and he really wanted BYU to win. Also Sam Tevi, who plays on our defensive line, was with us as well. It was a lot of fun, but we just wished they would have won."

Saafi comes from a large Tongan home where the LDS faith is strongly practiced. He has plans on serving a mission and wears his religion proudly on his sleeve whenever he can.

"Oh yeah, it's all about living your faith the fullest," Saafi said. "It's all about being that example and not running away from it. I'm Mormon and live my life in a way that would make not only make my father proud of me, but also my Heavenly Father proud also. There's no other way around that, it's all about the gospel."

His father Tuulau raised him, his older brother, three younger sisters and two younger brothers all on his own. After a personal family issue occurred that split the family, Josh's mother hasn't been in his life since he was a little boy. Only recently has there been an effort to change that.

"People make mistakes and I know that," Saafi said. "My mom lives in California and I haven't really been a part of her life since I was a little kid. It's okay though and I still love her, but it's been tough on my dad. It's only been recently that she's kind of came back into my life and things are starting to change a little now."

During Trinity's run for the state championship last year, Saafi didn't get a chance to shine much his junior season when most colleges are doing their evaluations. He and his family were in the process of moving to a different place, but that fell through. So, he registered late at Trinity, and because of that, he wasn't able to play as much his junior year. His time to shine would come his senior year.

However, his hopes of earning a scholarship offer took a blow at the beginning of the season.

"The first game of the season I hyper extended my elbow really badly and that put me pretty much out for the season," Saafi said. "It just sucks because this is my senior year and really my last chance to show coaches what I can do."

It was a devastating blow. But while on the mend, he has reflected back on his father's own struggles over the years and how he worked to support his family under very tough circumstances.

"Yeah, being a senior and having this happen to me was very hard for me," Saafi said. "My dad has done the best he can as a single parent to take care of us. I've watched him struggle to find work, pouring cement for someone when the economy is so bad. A lot of people don't know what that's like."

BYU has 17 current commits for the 2012 class, and is holding a few for return missionaries, as well as for one or two recruits that could still potentially commit. So, the odds that Saafi receives a BYU scholarship offer are slim at best. It's a situation that he's fully aware of, but he knows he has to continue trying for himself and his family.

"I haven't heard from BYU in a while and I think it might be because of my elbow injury, but I have to keep going," Saafi said. "I have to keep hoping and praying that I can do well enough with the little time that I have to show the coaches that I'm worthy of a scholarship. I have to go all out to show someone that I can play at the next level – if not BYU, than someone else who will take me.

"If I do somehow get a scholarship from BYU, I would let Coach Mendenhall know that I will give everything I have to him to give. I will give more than a 110 percent and give him my all for just one chance."

On Thursday Saafi will return to the field for the first time this season in a limited role. Next week he'll get the start at outside linebacker for the first time since his injury.

"I'll play a little tomorrow and then next week I should get the go as we start playoffs," Saafi said. "I just need to do my best and with what little chance I have left."


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