Catching up with Vic So'oto

Former BYU Cougar Vic So'oto nearly won a Super Bowl ring his rookie year with the Green Bay Packers. The Oceanside, California native is currently enjoying the warm weather of California and working out with linebacker star Clay Matthews.

Vic So'oto went from watching Green Bay Packer star linebacker Clay Matthews on television to playing alongside him on the football field. In addition, he's learning from former NFL defensive great Kevin Greene, who is the Packers' outside linebacker coach.

"[Greene] has the record for sacks for the outside linebacker position," said So'oto. "It's been great learning from him as well as learning from Clay at the same time, so it's been great for me and an awesome opportunity."

So'oto has enjoyed forging new friendships with his current Green Bay teammates.

"I think getting to know some of the big-name guys you watched playing in the NFL has been one of the best experiences for me," So'oto said. "Guys like Clay and Charles [Woodson] and Aaron [Rodgers] have definitely helped me to open my eyes and stay humble.

"They go about their business as professionals. There are a lot of guys in the league that aren't pros, but these guys are definitely pros on the field and in the locker room and as far as work ethic. Being around them and seeing how they approach playing at this level has been good for me."

Matthews, meanwhile, has taken So'oto under his wing.

"Clay is a good teammate and good guy to look up to," So'oto said said with a laugh. "I'm out here in Thousand Oaks, California working out and training with him, trying to get ready. I'm excited to work out with this guy and we're pushing it every day and kicking some butt.

"So yeah, we're pretty close and as close as teammates can get. He's like my homie. He knows the situation that I'm in where undrafted guys and league minimum guys struggle to fight, and like I said, he's a pro. He's a great teammate and has really helped and we're working hard."

While So'oto has been learning some of the tricks of the trade from the Green Bay defensive star, he did that he has yet to reciprocate in a show of gratitude by sharing with Matthews the ins and outs of his LDS faith.

"My brother Wally just got off his mission," So'oto said with a laugh. "He's kind of taken that task of taking the So'oto name to the mission field, but no, I haven't done that yet."

So no pictures in his Green Bay locker of Nephi stretching forth his hand in an act of scolding his brothers or Captain Moroni holding up a flag? Still laughing, So'oto said, "No, but everyone knows that I'm from BYU. Everyone knows something about Mormonism and will ask a question here or there. Usually it's about the polygamy thing, but it's not really a big deal and pretty much just a non-issue. I think Green Bay might be a little different than most NFL organizations."

Having played in Coach Mendenhall's defense, that experience has provided So'oto with a great foundation when making the transition to the NFL.

"We play a 3-4 defense here in Green Bay and I was Clay's backup during camp and then I ended up getting some playing time at the end of the season," So'oto said. "I think playing in the 3-4 defense at BYU has sort of prepared me for Green Bay. BYU's defense is a lesser version of the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense, where here at Green Bay we run multiple defenses put into one.

"We run our base defense out of the 3-4, which is similar to what we ran there at BYU but it's a little more complicated. Playing in BYU's defense was a good starting point for me and helped me with my transition into our defense here at Green Bay. I've been learning from Don Capers and his defense and it was a tough transition, but there was some carryover from BYU."

While at BYU, So'oto played various positions both on offense and defense. The transition when learning a new position wasn't easy, but going through that benefited So'oto now that he's in the NFL.

"Outside linebacker is probably my more natural position," said So'oto, who played defensive end his junior and senior years at BYU. "I played tight end but went over and played defense and that was my move and decision more than anyone else's. I played outside linebacker, but then Coach Mendenhall asked me to move to defensive tackle because of a lack of depth. I ended up playing defensive tackle, but now with the Green Bay Packers I'm back at the outside linebacker position and it's been a lot of fun.

"When I first came in, there was an NFL lockout, and so when fall camp came around I had to learn really quickly because we didn't have any OTAs [organized training activities] in the summer to learn how to play your position at this level. Moving to different positions and having to fight for playing time at those positions really helped prepare me for the NFL. You know, trying to learn the ins and out of the different college positions really helped me with learning quickly the ins and outs of playing outside linebacker here in the NFL. In looking back at what I went through at BYU, it really helped me because of what I had to go through my rookie year."

So'oto also credits BYU for preparing him to handle the cutthroat business side of the NFL.

"It's always a competition and very businesslike," said So'oto. "When you're in college you're just competing for a starting spot, but in the NFL you're constantly competing for a spot on the team. The thing about playing for BYU is the way you're coached at BYU. The way that you're coached there makes it more comfortable for you to handle all the businesslike demands and higher expectations here in the NFL."

So'oto's experience living among the local community in Green Bay has been a rather pleasant one.

"I haven't played for other NFL organizations, but we're not in a big city and there aren't a lot of distractions out here," So'oto said with a laugh in his voice. "It's kind of like Idaho. It's kind of a small town and not a big city like Miami or New York where a lot of things are always going on. It's kind of nice for someone like me who is married and has a daughter. It's been different than other big NFL cities and kind of hard to get into trouble out here. It's a great place to lay low and focus on football and try and win a Super Bowl.

"We're the only NFL team that was saved by the public, when they bought stock in the Green Bay Packers. The people out here are very passionate about their green and gold out here and it's everywhere. The people know that members of the team are around and they know how to treat him. They're not overbearing with signs and asking for things. They're more cordial and you can talk to all the fans out here. It's been a good transition coming from Provo, Utah out here because the people here are hardworking people who don't bombard you with things. They don't follow you around taking pictures, but just talk to you like any normal person. It's been great being out here with the fans."

Nevertheless, So'oto has had to adjust to playing out in the land of the Frozen Tundra.

"I tried to be Mr. Tough Guy with no sleeves on out at practice during mid December," So'oto said with a chuckle. "After about two practices I triple-layered up, so it's been a lot colder playing out here than out in Provo. I learned my lesson pretty quickly. As my career has progressed, playing football has gotten colder and colder. It first started out in California in high school. Then it went to playing in Provo and now it's out here in Wisconsin where you can't really get any colder."

It got a little colder for So'oto when he received a phone call from his father informing him of the death of his uncle Junior Seau back home in Oceanside.

"That was definitely very hard," So'oto said. "I think my dad was one of the first people out there on the scene and he called me before it hit ESPN and all that. It kind of shocked everyone and it was bad. The first thing that hit my mind was it had to be from concussions or something like that, because for someone who loved life as much as he did, there had to be something wrong for him to take his own life. It was definitely a hard day for all of our family."

While So'oto was at BYU, he would return home to Oceanside and work out often with Seau. After hearing the news of his uncle's passing, So'oto flew out the following week to be with the family.

"We flew down the following week for the services and I got to see all my uncles and aunts and kind of mourn and celebrate the life he lived," So'oto said with a somber voice. "It was hard because the last time that I spoke to him was right after fall camp last year. He called me to congratulate me on making the Green Bay Packers. He called me up and we talked about it and about making the team, so we talked for a little while and that was the last time we spoke. It's a sad thing for me."

The news of Seau's passing was hard on many. Seau's life and legacy will live on in positive ways many will never hear of. As for So'oto, he'll continue onward in an attempt to put his own unique stamp on the National Football League, but he's also thought about what he would like to do after the NFL.

"I would love to one day return to BYU and be involved with the program somehow," So'oto said. "If the opportunity ever comes around, and I'm no longer playing in the NFL, I would love to go back. Hopefully it's not for a long time because I want to play in the NFL, but if there was any place where I had a chance to coach at, it would be BYU. I wouldn't want to coach anywhere else."

The thought of one day possibly returning to BYU and being involved with the program in some capacity is very real for So'oto.

"Yeah, it has crossed my mind and I've thought about it," he said. "You get in this transition phase where you don't know what's going to happen next. You know, just never know what's going to happen next and are always one play away from it all being over with. I've thought about what I would do after the NFL, and I know that I want to be in Provo somewhere linked to BYU football. Coaching would be great one day, but right now I'm just focusing on our next season with the Green Bay Packers."

The reason So'oto wishes to return could be visibly seen during BYU's Media Day as he sat on stage with Coach Mendenhall while being interviewed by Dave McCann. When asked about what he remembers most about BYU, So'oto's voice cracked just a little bit. His eyes welled up and he spoke from the heart words that exemplify what BYU football is truly about.

"BYU will always hold a special place in my heart," So'oto said. "I did a lot of growing there and through football I was not able to grown as a football player but as a man. Coach Mendenhall played a huge role in that. Regardless of wins and losses, he's definitely won me over and helped me to become the person that I am today. My accomplishments in life will be forever linked to me having been a BYU Cougar."


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