Soi has date with destiny he won't dare stand up

<b>Brian Soi</b>, <b><i>the</i></b> defensive catch of BYU's 2003 recruiting class, has an important date Saturday he won't dare stand up -- when he takes the last qualifying ACT test to determine if he suits up in Cougar blue this fall.

He needs a passing score of 18 to meet NCAA Clearing House requirements, otherwise he will be academically ineligible to play for BYU this fall. In his three previous attempts at the ACT test, Soi fell short by several points.

Brian's mother, Ponaivao (Pona) Soi, perhaps the calmest, coolest and most collected member of the Soi household, told last night "it's really stressing him (Brian) right now. He had so many distractions. He asked us to let him graduate first before we really concentrate on the (ACT) test."

Her husband, Motu, was another matter. "I told him to calm down; not to be too hard on Brian. We're just praying Brian will do well in the last test," she said.

She said the most challenging part is the Trigonometry section because "he didn't learn that in high school. He's really struggling in the math part of the test.

"We're doing everything we can to get him (Brian) some tutoring. We checked with Sylvan Learning Center and they charge $500. We can't afford it.

"I took leave for two weeks for his graduation (last Friday) and to drive him places to study for the test. Lupe Viena, a Tongan friend in our ward who graduated from BYU, has been helping him with his math. (Lupe's father, Inoke Funaki, is a long-time professor who teaches mathematics at BYU-Hawaii). Another family friend (who requested anonymity) has been working with Brian, letting him take ACT practice tests on his computer because we don't have a computer."

A top 100 national recruit, SuperPrep All-American and Utah's top defensive lineman prospect, Soi's single-minded focus and plan this week is to study as many as six hours daily in separate morning (math tutoring with Lupe) and afternoon sessions (with family friend taking practice tests online).

"As his mother, I try coaching and encouraging him, but he has to do it himself. I stopped him from lifting weights for now. I'm just hoping and praying he does good."

Meanwhile, she added, the head coach from Dixie Junior College has been calling and asked them to put them (Dixie) in their Plan B if he is unsuccessful. It was not a thought she and Motu are prepared to entertain at this juncture.

With his graduation from Timpview High over, she noted "so many people came for him (Brian). We didn't have a graduation party. He told me, 'Mom, I don't need a graduation party,' but if he passes his test, we're going to have the biggest party. We're just keeping our fingers crossed and we are going to fast and pray a lot this week."

To lessen the pressure of retaking the test at his own school and to escape the glances and stares (read added pressure) of familiar schoolmates, his mother submitted a request for Brian to sit his test Saturday at either Orem High School or BYU, but she had not received a response yet. She is hoping a change of venue may lessen the pressure -- where even a point or two extra will likely make all the difference.

"We haven't asked anyone else for help. I'm not sure what help anyone can give, but I wish I really understood about all this (NCAA Clearing House guidelines and qualifications) before. We would have done a lot more much sooner."

Later this month, she said Brian will play June 20 in the Kava Bowl, a Polynesian All-Star game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on the Utah campus. A week later on June 28, she added, he will play in the Utah All-Star prep game.

Soi was highly recruited by many schools, the most notable among them were USC, Oregon, Washington, Nebraska, ASU and Tennessee. He is considered the most dominant defensive tackle to come out of Utah this year.

BYU coaches are as concerned for Soi's success in the ACT test, but they have maintained a comfortable distance and silence so as not to apply unnecessary pressure on him and the family.

Soi wants badly to become a part of a new revamped, high-octane defense that defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall feels he will excel in.

"This is one of the reasons I'm signing with BYU. I'm excited to be a part of it. To wear the blue and white. I've been waiting for this my whole life," Soi said on signing day earlier this year.

"Bronco told me I fit right into his scheme. He told me it doesn't matter who started last year. Bronco said it's going to be fast and a whole new ball game. It's a whole new coaching philosophy where everyone's on equal ground. I'm excited to play and show what I've got."

His mother added that "Coach Kaufusi was the last BYU coach to call on the night of Brian's graduation to congratulate him. I know there's nothing they can do. It's all up to Brian now. If he concentrates and stays committed, he can do it."

"It's time to get in on; time to bring it!" Brian Soi's own words, though uttered in February when he signed with BYU, ring louder, truer and are more applicable now than ever -- and brings to greater visibility the importance of academics in college athletics.

Copyright © 2003

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