BYU offers California defensive tackle

BYU has extended a scholarship offer to a freshman junior college defensive tackle. The Cougars were the first to do so, despite many other colleges showing interest. Meanwhile, other Cougar coaches have paid a visit to the California prospect.

His name is Tutulupeata Mataele, but he goes by "Duce." And at 6 feet 3 inches and 280 pounds, he is blessed with an overabundance of athleticism. Mataele is quick to deflect any credit, but he nevertheless was a force in the trenches for Mt. San Antonio College last year.

"Our coaches make it possible to make plays," he said. "They put us in a position, if we're doing what we should be doing, to have success. Last year was my first year and I like battling with my hands. I like to use speed on the edge and then hand battle, but if I get a double team I'll take it on."

Originally from Oakland, Mataele left the Golden State and moved to Utah, after which he attended high school in West Valley City.

"I played football at Granger High School and then after that went on a mission," said Mataele with a laugh in his voice. "About three months after graduating I left to serve in Oakland. It's kind of funny because I'm actually from Oakland and played here my freshman year. Then I went to Utah to get a fresh slate. Then I got called back to Oakland to serve my mission and baptized all the people that I corrupted out there. That's the whole story on that one."

After playing one year at Mt. SAC in Southern California, Mataele received his first Division I offer.

"BYU is looking at me and they were the first one to offer me at the beginning of last spring," Mataele said. "BYU is a good school and I'm looking at playing time and if I could be acclimated for that kind of defense. I like to put it on my back and be in all the time and I know BYU rotates a lot, but it's whatever. I'll see after I go on my trip."

Mataele's offer came directly from the Cougar head coach himself.

"It was Coach Mendenhall who offered me," Mataele said. "I called him on the phone and we were talking about it and he said he wanted to offer me. They said that they have it for me and I just need to come in and sit down with them and sign it. They said they got it."

Mataele views Coach Mendenhall in a very positive light.

"Oh, Coach Mendenhall is a good coach, man," Mataele said. "When we were talking on the phone, we didn't really talk about football. That's how I know he's a good coach.

"If I had to pick, I would say he's one of my tops and BYU is in my top two or three out there. He talked about my future and getting me on my feet for the future, and not just about playing football and that's it. He talked about after football and the whole networking aspect of BYU concerning my career and family."

BYU assistant coach Steve Kaufusi, meanwhile, has been out to Mt. SAC to watch Mataele.

"Oh yeah, he came out the first week of our spring ball," Mataele said. "He's been out here and so have a few other schools as well."

Even before his offer, Mataele was very familiar with BYU.

"I've always been a BYU fan," he said. "Even when I lived right next to the U of U, I was always the one arguing with all my Ute cousins. I bleed blue, man."

However, Mataele has yet to give a verbal commitment to BYU despite receiving an offer.

"Growing up, my parents and grandparents taught me that I need to be a man of my word," said Mataele. "I didn't feel right about giving a verbal commitment and I'm not going to commit until I know for sure that is where I'm going to go. If I say I'm going to commit, then I am going to follow through with it. People were telling me, ‘Verbally commit to BYU!' but I told them that if I do, I'm going to mean it and not just do it for the sake of doing it. I told Bronco that and he fully understood that when we were talking."

Mataele claims an accumulative GPA of 3.5, which bodes well for him given BYU's high academic standards. Meanwhile, he also likes the spiritual aspect of the school.

"BYU is unique because of the spiritual aspect," he said. "One of the things that I like about BYU is if I do go there, I think I would probably give more back to the Lord and put things more in his hands. Everyone always says the Church helps build up your values, but BYU also helps build you up and solidify your values for the next generation in a way the Lord wants. That's what I'm all about."

Mataele plans on visiting BYU sometime this year.

"I want to head out there when my trips come along," he said. "I still have one more year left to play out here and will have three years to play two. I don't know if I'll be able to take all of my five trips but I want to get out to BYU probably during the season. I want to make my decision before December. I know this next season I have coming up I'm going to give to the Lord, but I'll probably make a decision before December."

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