BYU gets big-time defensive lineman commit

Last Wednesday, Cerritos College's Ma'ataua Brown and his cousin Kalolo Manumaleuna Utu drove up from California for an unofficial visit to BYU. On Friday, the 6-foot-5-inch, 350-pound Brown was offered by Coach Mendenhall and promptly accepted the offer.

BYU has hit the junior college ranks hard in an effort to prepare for the future. With scholarship offers already on the table for three defensive tackles in Kyle Peko of Cerritos College, Deuce Mataele of Mt. San Antonio College and Marquel Combs of Pierce College, the staff extended another offer on Friday to Ma'ataua Brown of Cerritos.

Brown's cousin Kalolo Manumaleuna Utu committed first to BYU, and Brown followed suit on Friday.

"Man, we're just really excited about his offer and commitment to play at BYU," said a proud Manumaleuna Utu about his cousin. "I have to say, this has been an incredible experience for the both of us."

Brown, once ranked the 51st best defensive tackle in the nation out of high school, was initially not too enthusiastic about visiting BYU.

"Yeah, I wasn't really sure about going up there," Brown said with a chuckle. "My cousin Kalolo had planned on going up there to check things out, but I told him that I wasn't sure I wanted to go. He then told me to give him my mom's phone number."

Brown's cousin then went to work.

"I called up [Brown's] mom and she told him that he had to come up here with me, so we left to come out here last Wednesday and today he was offered and committed," said Manumaleuna Utu.

The visit included many of the normal activities.

"We went and toured the campus and then after that we went and talked to all the coaches," said Brown. "After we talked to all the coaches we went and talked to the head coach. When we were talking in his office he asked me questions to get to know me. He told me that he was going to give me a scholarship."

"They went over all that was required to play at BYU and about church and all that," said Manumaleuna Utu. "Then Coach Mendenhall said [to Brown], ‘I want to offer you a full-ride scholarship to play here at BYU.' I was just so happy for that to happen for Ma'a. He just committed to him."

However, although Coach Mendenhall extended the offer to Brown, the Cougar head coach boldly stated that he wasn't going to sign it until Brown took care of two things.

"He said he wants me to go back to school and do better in school and get my AA degree, but the main thing that he wants me to do is go back to church," said Brown. "The main focus that he really wants from me, and his main focus, was he wanted me to become active and a strong member in the Church. Once I do that, he promised me he would sign my scholarship."

After hearing Coach Mendenhall's straightforward words, Brown committed.

"I told him that I wanted to play for him," Brown said. "I committed to him and told him that I wanted to play for him. I told him that I'm committing to do those things so I can come play at BYU."

"Coach Mendenhall is the one that made this trip what it is," said Manumaleuna Utu. "He basically read Ma'a and came straight out and said ‘You have to do these things before I sign that scholarship.' Man, what he's saying to Ma'a is, ‘I don't care what you can do for me or this program as a football player, I care about you first.' Man, who wouldn't want to play for a guy like that?"

That single experience with BYU's head coach has motivated Brown.

"Man, he is just an incredible man," Brown said of Coach Mendenhall. "I don't think there is another coach out there like him. The way that I felt after talking to him was like no other experience I've had. I just want to play for him, so now I have to go back and do my part.

"I have to keep my commitment to him and go back and work harder in school and go back to church. He told me that he was going to check in on my church attendance and talk to my bishop to keep track of how I'm doing. Now I have to just go back and do those things that I was taught since I was a little kid by my parents. I'm going to do it."

"I told Coach Kaufusi that if you offer Ma'a a scholarship, he'll come, but I told Coach Kaufusi that BYU doesn't need Ma'a, but he needs BYU," said Manumaleuna Utu. "He needs what BYU has to offer and he has a desire to come back. We've been talking about that. We've been talking about playing together, going to school together as well as going to church together. That is why Ma'a needs BYU and he's all for it."

Brown affectionately expressed his gratitude for Manumaleuna Utu and his efforts to get him to BYU.

"You know, I owe a lot to my cousin Kalolo," Brown said. "If it wasn't for him I would have missed out on this experience and opportunity. Now I feel like my life is going to change because of all this. If he didn't call my mom and tell her that I needed to come with him, I wouldn't have come out here. I wouldn't have been offered by BYU and I wouldn't have committed to Coach Mendenhall. I don't think my life would have changed without my little cousin pushing me to have this experience. I love Kalolo for what he's done for me. I owe him a lot."

"Man, Ma'a is like my little brother, you know?" said Manumaleuna Utu. "And the thing that made the trip was Coach Mendenhall. He didn't sugarcoat anything and read Ma'a and just came straight out with it. I think this is exactly what he needs. I'm just so happy for the experience he's had. I think he gets it now and is going to do it. He'll be here with me at BYU when it's all said and done."

Coming in at about 6 feet 5 inches and 350 pounds, and being one of the top defensive linemen in the nation out of high school, Brown has great potential to advance to the NFL following his BYU career.

"He's in a much better position to go to the NFL than I am," Manumaleuna said. "I'm not really in the same position as he is to go to the league. If I get that blessing, I'll take it. But the thing about BYU is if we look at the players in the league now, they struggle with life issues and don't know how to handle them.

"If you look at Junior Seau, he was a great football player but inside he was miserable. The thing about BYU is this will teach Ma'a and the other kids who come here how to become a better a better person and how to control those things. It's a place that teaches you to recognize and hold on to what's most important in life."

"I just can't thank Coach Mendenhall enough," said Brown. "I can't thank my cousin Kalolo and Coach Kaufusi for showing me the interest and recruiting me. Man, this is just an incredible experience and something I'm so grateful for. It's hard for me to put into words."

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