Excited Kaufusi offered by BYU

Brighton High School linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi has been evaluated by Coach Poppinga, tested at BYU's summer camp, and offered a full-ride scholarship by Coach Mendenhall. Although the young linebacker's heart desired to commit on the spot, he'll have to wait just a little while longer for the consent of his parents.

Isaiah Kaufusi is the nephew of BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi, and the cousin of his Cougar sons Corbin and Bronson. But, don't assume that Isaiah has received special treatment because of that when he visited BYU.

"When I first got there, my aunt told me that my uncle Steve [Kaufusi] made Corbin work for a scholarship," recalled Isaiah. "Steve said, ‘You know what, I know I'm a coach here, but you have to work for it and earn it.' People are going to say, ‘Oh, Steve is his uncle and he's a coach there, so that's why he got a scholarship to BYU.' But that's not the case. I had to work hard and earn this scholarship for myself."

What kind of things did he have to do in order to put himself in a position to earn a scholarship?

"Over the years I've learned to be very coachable," he said. "When coaches explain a drill, or explained a certain move and how to use your hands, I would learn that and incorporate it into my style of play. When coaches see that, they know you're very coachable and that you're willing to learn and grow as a football player."

BYU outside linebacker coach Kelly Poppinga is the one that evaluated Isaiah, and had been actively recruiting the Brighton linebacker.

"He's a phenomenal coach and is always excited," Isaiah said. "He makes you want to be your best and play your best. He just helped me and coached me and is young and lively. He's so enthusiastic, and when you make a mistake he'll say, ‘It's alright,' and ‘You can do it again.' He's that coach you always look up to and is just a great coach."

After evaluating Isaiah both as a football player and as a person, Coach Poppinga informed Coach Mendenhall that he wanted Isaiah to receive an offer once BYU's camp was over.

"I actually just showed up on the second day of the camp, because I was at Utah for their first elite camp on Monday," said Kaufusi. "I saw Coach Poppinga at the All-Poly Camp and told him that I was going to BYU's camp. When I was there at BYU's camp he was all excited. I was able to work with him and do some drills and he really liked my effort."

As mentioned earlier, Isaiah plays linebacker for Brighton.

"I'm an outside linebacker, and in Brighton's defense the outside backers are more about defending the run and then [defending] the pass," he said. "I drop a lot into coverage and our coach blitzes me off the edge. I would use my speed to come off the edge, and then use my hands and just get around and go after the quarterback. I use my speed really well."

Coming in at about 6 feet 2 inches and 175 pounds, Isaiah's style of play has been compared to a past Brighton outside linebacker, one that Cougar fans are very familiar with.

"[Poppinga] really liked me and compared me to Bryan Kehl," Isaiah said. "He said the way I play is a lot like Bryan Kehl, but then he compared my personality to my cousins Corbin and Bronson, and that was something that just really stuck out to him."

Isaiah is excited about the possibility of playing alongside family at BYU.

"I can be up there at BYU when my cousin Corbin is there," said Isaiah. "It really is a neat thing to know that I can play with some of my cousins."

Isaiah is grateful for the BYU offer for a variety of reasons.

"It's just that the academics at BYU are really good, and if the NFL doesn't work out for me, I'll have that degree," he said. "Education there is top-notch, and it's hard to find that level of education at a university where the Church is a priority. I think my parents will definitely be supportive of that. I'm just grateful for the opportunity Coach Mendenhall and Coach Poppinga have given me.

"BYU is really focused on academics and the Church owns and runs the school. When I was talking to Coach Mendenhall in his office, he was saying how 98 percent of the students there are LDS. It was really a spiritual experience being with Coach Mendenhall and he read some quotes from President Hinckley and Monson. He actually brought out the Book of Mormon and we read a scripture together. I was really excited, and there is something about being in that room that is exciting and the scholarship offer was amazing."

Meanwhile, Isaiah said he is looking forward to serving a mission.

"It's one of my goals, and so I'm looking forward to serving a full-time mission. My birthday is in December, so it's kind of in the middle, but I would love to just leave on a mission first, then come back and play."

Excited about his offer, Kaufusi made it known to the Cougar head coach that he wanted to commit. However, Coach Mendenhall wanted him to wait.

"I was just ready to burst and wanted to get it done now, but Coach Mendenhall wanted my parents to be there to help me with my decision," said Isaiah. "Coach Mendenhall wouldn't let me commit until after I spoke to them.

"He knows that family is very important. [With me] having a background of being a Pacific Islander, he knows that family is very important, so he told me to talk to my family first and be on the same page as them before I make a commitment to him."

"My brother Steve and Coach Mendenhall know that I really want the parents to be involved, and so we still want to meet with them," said Isaiah's father Jeff, who emphasized that despite reports to the contrary, no commitment has been made yet by his son.

Jeff and his wife Brooke are currently in Hawaii helping out with the All-Poly Camp. Jeff has been affiliated with All-Poly Sports for quite some time now, helping direct camp activities among other volunteer work. Once he and his wife return home they'll then be able to meet with Coach Mendenhall.

In the mid ‘90s, Jeff played football for the University of Utah. Brooke holds Ute sentimentalities as well, but their son Isaiah hopes over time they'll bleed a little more blue along.

"You know, my mom told me that she will have a hard time putting on a BYU shirt," Isaiah said with a laugh. "I know in time she'll crack, and I know she'll support me in whatever decision I make."

Meanwhile, his parents should be meeting with Coach Mendenhall soon.

"We're going to be back, hopefully, next week in the St. George area," said Jeff. "The boys will have a football camp next week, and then we're going to try and break away and get into a meeting with Mendenhall. We'll see how it goes, but we're really excited for our son to be in that position with BYU and that coaching staff there. We're grateful for all those guys."

Looks like Isaiah's parents might already be starting to crack.

Total Blue Sports Top Stories