BYU offers actor from "Forever Strong"

The BYU coaching staff has extended a scholarship offer to a talented junior college offensive guard with roots firmly planted in the state of Utah. In fact, this football player once played a role in the movie "Forever Strong," which was based on events surrounding the powerhouse Highland rugby program.

Former Brighton High School center and Highland rugby player Junior Salt was cast at Peeta in the rugby movie "Forever Strong."

"I was number four and the biggest guy on the team," said Salt. "I was kind of that F.O.B. dude [slang for ‘fresh of the boat']. I had a couple of lines and you won't miss me. Like I said, I'm the biggest one on the team.

"Right after high school I got picked up to play a role in the movie. I was still playing rugby for Highland back in ‘07. They pretty much used a lot of the guys that were on that team to act out an event that occurred back in the ‘80s. I made about $2,000 every week, and we did the movie for a good month and a half. Pretty much all the money that I made went towards my mission. That was a real blessing for me."

Salt was called to serve in Tonga, where his parents were born and raised.

"I served all over on different islands," Salt said. "At first I served in Eua, and there is one main road that goes through Eua and all the main villages. Mu'a is one of them right in the middle of the island. It was nice, I got to go to Eua for two months, then I got to go to Nua – where "The Other Side of Heaven" was filmed – for about four months. Then after that I sailed to Vava'u and was there for eight months."

After serving in various Tongan islands, Elder Salt eventually made it to the main island of Tongan.

"I finally made it to Tongatapu and served in a village called Houma, where my dad is from," Salt said. "I was there for around three months and that was great being able to serve in a village where my dad grew up.

"After serving in Mu'a I went and served in the villages of Pelehake and Lapaha. Then after Lapaha I went out to Ha'apai, where my mom's from, and that was great. After that I came back to the island of Tonga and finished in Hateu, Tonga. I was really blessed to go back to Tonga and serve all over the different places, especially where my family was from."

Prior to his mission, Salt had planned on eventually playing football for UNLV.

"Out of high school I was committed to, but didn't sign yet, to UNLV," Salt said. "I went on my mission and came back and sort of had a change of plans. I was going to try and see if I could play at Utah, but I couldn't pass my ACT and I couldn't get a good enough score to play at Utah. That's why I took the J.C. route, and I think that's happened for a reason."

So, Salt ventured out west to California, where he would play football for Mt. San Antonio College.

"I'm glad with the decision I made to come out here and play out here," he said. "Going to a J.C. and playing out here has helped me to get back into playing football, so I think it was a good move for me.

"When I came home from my mission I was probably home for seven months. I came home August of ‘09 and then I came out to Mt. SAC in December, so I had a good five or six months of being back home chillin' with all the boys. For me, it was nice kicking it with all the boys and everything, but it got to a point where I was feeling like I wasn't progressing or moving forward. Coming back from my mission, I had decided in my heart that I wanted to play football. I just didn't know where until I heard about Mt. SAC."

Salt joined a group of players at Mt. SAC that were from Utah, so he fit right in and felt comfortable there. He's been playing and excelling at the offensive guard position.

"I think I'm doing alright," Salt said. "Everyone on our defense came back for the 2010 season after winning the national championship in ‘09. I got the chance to practice both ways with the offense and the defense until it got to the point where our coach just said for me to play offense."

Playing a couple of years at Mt. SAC has changed everything for Salt. While out of high school he may have only had one option, he now has many colleges to choose from.

"I recently took a trip out to Oregon State and they offered me. Arizona and Arizona State offered, along with Colorado and Wyoming. I talked to the offensive coach from Oregon who flew out and talked to me. I'm getting letters from Auburn, Florida, and I'm about to take a trip out to Miami and Miami is about to offer, so there's a lot of good schools – Utah State, Kansas State and Iowa State. To me I look at all this stuff as like a blessing, so I want to make sure that I make the right decision."

With many options to choose from, Salt is going to take his time and carefully weigh each opportunity.

"I haven't made a decision yet, and I told all of them that I'll make a decision after the season or whenever school ends. I don't want to rush things and just want to see what all of my options are. I just want to see what all the different schools have to offer and check it out."

A 6-foot-3-inch, 330-pound mobile road grader pulling during running plays would be fun to watch. But having played some defense and possessing that quick-twitch muscle reflex, Salt was contacted by BYU's defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi about a month ago.

"I was at one time being recruited out of high school by Steve Kaufusi and BYU. Steve was recruiting me back then to play defense. I went out there for their camp and did really well at their camp. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a scholarship to go there and Utah already had too many defensive players during my junior year."

This time around, Salt was offered a BYU scholarship.

"When [Kaufusi] called me he offered me and said he wants me to come play defense," Salt said. "He wants me to come be the guy that comes and plays in the middle of their defense. You know, man, when he offered me I was excited and it was cool. I was excited."

The conversation between the two went well. Coach Kaufusi talked about BYU's unique aspects.

"He just broke everything down and explained what BYU was all about," Salt said. "He talked about the environment, the type of guys I would be playing with and the atmosphere I would be playing in. It's a lot to think about, you know? Because that's all stuff that I learned on my mission – atmosphere and the kinds of people that you're surrounded by. BYU has a great academic program and that's definitely what I want right there."

Salt is still in the process of deciding what he wants to major in.

"I haven't narrowed it down yet, but ever since I was in that movie "Forever Strong" I kind of wanted to get back into acting," Salt said. "That's something I would like to do and hopefully make some movies, you know?"

In speaking of playing a role, Salt feels that BYU is a program that is being used to promote the standards he once taught back on the islands of Tonga.

"BYU is a school where everyone knows it's a religious school and at the same time is being used as a missionary tool," said Salt. "Every time you watch BYU players, you know, the way they act, the way they walk and the stories that surround them, [it] represents the Church. I think BYU is like the perfect example of playing football and living a higher standard. A lot of people see what our lifestyle is like through football. It's a perfect missionary tool and a lot of people look at us to see how we are."

Although it's been a couple years since Salt wore the black name tag, he still plays the role of a missionary while at Mt. SAC.

"A lot of people know that some us out here are LDS," said Salt. "When guys on the team do something, they kind of look at us and you can tell they kind of feel dumb or uncomfortable. There have been so many times where we've taken guys to church, you know, feed them and just get a taste of how it is in our shoes. So, I'm actually doing missionary work out here. Just like they say in the Church, ‘Every member a missionary.'"

The role that BYU plays in missionary work will play a small part in Salt's final college decision.

"Yeah, because that's something big and something you have to think about when I make my final decision on what school I'm going to go to," said Salt. "Like I said, there's a lot to think about. It's a big decision. I'll really start thinking about it more and praying about it to get a better feel of my direction."


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