Deuce, a Big Man with a "Big-boy" Name

His given name, <b>Taitusi Lutui</b>, is about as Tongan as they come. To his family and friends, he is simply "Deuce."

In typical Polynesian fashion, his mother Mele called him "Tusi" from his baby days, but the way she pronounced it sounded more like "Deucey." Over time, little-boy "Deucey" became big-boy "Deuce." (TBS) finally caught up with the affable and extremely polite "yes sir, no sir" Deuce in our first face-to-face interview and asked questions all inquiring BYU fans want to know the answers to.

By any description, Taitusi, Tusi, Deucey or Deuce is definitely a big boy now and is referred to by some as the "Tongan mountain man" at 6-6 and 375 pounds. Surprisingly, he looks lean and thick in person in much the same way another Tongan offensive line sensation, Ofa Mohetau, looked when TBS visited with him in Euless, Texas.

Both are extremely fast for their size, with Mohetau recording an incredible 4.75 forty time last year carrying 330 pounds. For his part, Lutui recently posted a 5.1 forty, noting he plans to get it down to the 4.9 range when he drops to his preferred playing weight around 350 pounds or less.

But the connection or similarities between Lutui and Mohetau don't end there. They are second cousins.

"Our grandmothers are sisters. I'll probably meet him (Ofa) later this summer. He's supposed to be in the line for my brother's (younger sibling Brooks plays as a defensive lineman at Snow College) wedding in August back in Arizona. I don't know if he'll make it because of BYU's fall camp."

Informed that Mohetau's father works for American Airlines, he added: "Maybe we can fly down and back for the weekend."

Preparing for his final season at Snow Junior College, Lutui is a nationally recruited offensive line prospect with quick feet and even quicker hands. This morning, Lutui was attending his American History and Microbiology summer classes he needs to be eligible to play this fall.

His brother Sam, a graduate assistant/offensive line coach at Southern Utah University, said his younger-but-bigger brother did not take his studies seriously enough last year while playing for Mesa Community College in Arizona. To further his education, older brother Sam is currently taking graduate study classes at BYU and Lutui has tagged along on several unofficial visits to the Provo campus.

Lutui says now, more than ever, he realizes the importance of education. In Ephraim, a good and constant reminder is no closer than teammate Tom Tonga, a defensive lineman who is married with two children. He lives with Tonga and his young family.

Tonga played high school football with Jason Kaufusi (BYU assistant Steve's younger brother), but opted to work for two years out of high school before deciding to pursue a college degree through football. He walked on at Snow College and earned a scholarship. In his final season at Snow, Tonga told TBS he has been contacted by smaller colleges and is looking closely at possibly joining former teammate Iosefa Robbins at Southern Utah University next year. Robbins shocked many when he spurned formal offers from Oklahoma and Kentucky to play for SUU.

Meanwhile, BYU recently extended Lutui an official scholarship offer via email. The Cougars join a host of major universities trying to woo this top-tier talent who currently lists his top five colleges as South Carolina, Nebraska, Arizona State, Boise State and BYU.

"My cousin is an assistant at Boise State so I have to say that," Lutui joked. Washington was among the top five before that.

His interest in BYU, however, is no laughing matter. While he is non-committal about where he will play next year, he shed greater light on his thoughts and perceptions about the Provo campus.

"I like that it's different from the world. It's not like any other school in the nation with the type of kids they have. It's a pretty thing to see. I'm looking for a school with great academic and athletic support. That's the main thing."

He added: "In this game, you have to have the smarts. This past spring (at Snow) was real good for me (studies). I'm starting to see the big picture and the importance of education. I'm on track to graduate by next spring."

Lutui said he transferred from Mesa Community College (MCC) last year because "my coach got fired and I wanted to leave and get away from my comfort zone."

Out of Mesa High School, the 20-year-old Lutui said he was recruited by BYU, but selected Utah because of the relationships he developed with Ute assistants Gary Anderson and Steve Kaufusi. Anderson is now the head coach at SUU, where Sam works as an assistant.

However, he failed to qualify academically for Utah and stayed close to home at MCC. "I made my bed and I got to sleep in it. Maybe this was the route for me."

Even though he has been a boon for SUU recruiting among Polynesians as an offensive line assistant, Sam was asked by TBS about recruiting Deuce to play for him at SUU.

"It's tough. I'm a brother first and a coach second. If he asks me for my opinion (about where to play), I'll give him my thoughts as a brother, whatever is best for his future."

By any name, Taitusi, Tusi, Deucey or Deuce knows he has an exceedingly bright future as a high profile college and NFL prospect barring injury.

The long and short of it is the son of Inoke and Mele Lutui has not forgotten his roots and the sacrifice of his immediate family who expect nothing more from him than to truly become a "mountain" of a man.

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