Honored by BYU offer

This past summer, Coach Mendenhall offered a Samoan athlete from the state of Utah who plays both offense and defense for his high school football team. Tueni Lupeamanu is being recruited by BYU as an athlete, and more than likely he'll end up at the linebacker position if he decides to commit to BYU.

He still has one more year left of high school football to play at Herriman High School, but Tueni Lupeamanu – who also plays basketball for the Mustangs – already passes the eye test.

"I play on both sides of the ball depending on what kind of an offense we're playing against," said the 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound Lupeamanu. "On defense, I play anywhere from defensive end to outside linebacker, kind of like a hybrid.

"On the offensive side of the ball I play quarterback, and I'm also the punter. Our coaches have never put me in at tight end yet, but I could probably play there too. Maybe we'll see."

Lupeamanu is open to playing any position in college.

"Honestly, I'll play whatever position gets me on the field," Lupeamanu said. "Playing both offense and defense really is like playing two different games. You have to just know when to turn the switch on and off when you play on both sides of the ball. You have to be smart about when to be aggressive and when to play to your strengths."

Lupeamanu is receiving attention from different colleges.

"It's great to see the letters coming in from our local colleges like BYU and Utah," Lupeamanu said. "I'm also getting a little from Oregon. BYU is my first and only offer so far."

Similar to what occurred with his teammate Francis Bernard, Lupeamanu went down to BYU's summer camp for a day. After performing in front of the Cougar coaches, they had seen all they needed.

"All the camps were around the same week, so they asked me if I could make it down there for one day if possible," Lupeamanu said. "We chose a couple camps here and there. We chose the Utah camp the same week. We had one day open, so we went down to the BYU camp, and it turned out to be a great success for me and Francis. We both ended up being offered that day. It was sweet."

Lupeamanu's private meeting with Coach Mendenhall was an extraordinary experience for him.

"Meeting with Coach Mendenhall was a humbling experience," he said. "It was great. He didn't ask one question about football, not one, which was surprising. I'm LDS, and so that experience I had with Coach Mendenhall was like I swear I was talking to the prophet. Having that experience like that with him was sweet.

"He didn't question us about football or what positions we like or what we liked about the program. He asked us about our testimony and asked questions based on our character. It was sweet to experience that with Coach Mendenhall."

Some athletes might think it's a bit strange discussing non-football related topics, but after a long week of attending various camps, the meeting with Coach Mendenhall was a breath of fresh air for Lupeamanu.

"I really appreciated the meeting I had with Coach Mendenhall, especially at that time," he said. "That whole week it was all about football, football, football, and not one time did I think about my family. I was just thinking about just doing this camp or that camp and that's what was on my mind. Then I sit with Coach Mendenhall and he talks about what mostly matters.

"It was kind of like when my dad was talking to me. He talks to me about family first, and how if we do something good or are successful in something, we think of our family first. I had grown up around that all my life, and so when Coach Mendenhall pretty much talked about that and not once about football, it really hit home for me. It made me look at BYU a whole lot differently. It brought me back down to life a little bit."

That experience hit home and opened Lupeamanu's eyes even more to the uniqueness of BYU.

He said it's unique "not just because it's run by the Church, and of course that's a huge factor, but the people there are different. I know there is a great brotherhood there and a different focus that's emphasized.

"Like on our team here at Herriman, our high school football team has the same honor code as BYU. My family is big on that and Coach Larry Wilson isn't even a member of the LDS faith. I know he goes to church, but he's not a member, but he still has that standard be a part of the football team."

Although it appears that BYU is a great fit for Lupeamanu, he wanted to hold off on committing to make sure that when he does, it's the right decision.

"I just wanted to wait, you know?" Lupeamanu said. "I didn't want to close any doors. Some people commit right away and that's fine. I just want to see what opportunities come before choosing just one.

"When I got that scholarship from BYU it was overwhelming for me. It was an incredible experience, and visiting with Coach Mendenhall was great.

"All that hard work during the offseason paid off and I got that first scholarship offer, and what more can you ask for than a BYU scholarship? I just thought it would be smart to be patient about this because it will be a big decision later on. I'm going to be a senior next season, so the decision is going to be pretty soon."

Lupeamanu attends early morning seminary and has plans on serving a mission. He likes the idea of being in BYU's environment.

"I would go on my mission, then come back, and it would be a place where it's nothing new. I feel like if I were to go to any other university, I would have to push myself more, and that's fine with me because I can be independent.

"It's just comforting for me to know that BYU is a place where return missionaries can just come back and fit right in. It's more comfortable for me to know there's a set program for return missionaries when they come back that they don't miss a beat. It's an honor to be offered by BYU."

Lupeamanu isn't the only person excited about his BYU offer.

"My family loved it," he said. "My family is very strong is the Church and it was really sweet for them to know that I received a BYU scholarship. I'm more of a home kind of guy and would like to stay in-state. If I went out of state I would definitely look at Oregon or Boise State and been to a couple of Boise State games, so if I went out of state I would probably go to one of those schools."

In the meantime, Lupeamanu isn't sure when he'll make a final decision.

"I don't have a timeline set up or anything," Lupeamanu said. "I'm not really sure. I'm just going to follow the council of Coach Larry [Wilson] and my dad and just go from there."

Having played with his close friend and fellow teammate Francis Bernard since they first started playing football, the two would like to play together at the next level and have discussed that possibility.

"I talked with Francis and we joke about playing together all the time," Lupeamanu said. "I always say things like, ‘When are you going to commit? Because wherever you commit, I'm going there.' We've been playing since elementary together, so when we both got offered by BYU we were so excited and like, ‘Are you serious? We come one day to BYU and we both get offered.' It was so sweet and we'll see by my senior year. BYU is definitely one of my top schools and they couldn't do anything better with how they're recruiting me."

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