The unexpected road to BYU

The day that BYU offered him a scholarship, 6-foot-6-inch, 270-pound Claudell Louis decided to commit. It was a situation he had been waiting for since June, and once the opportunity finally came, there was no question in his mind that he was going to commit. It's a decision that didn't seem possible just a few years ago.

Claudell Louis has given his verbal commitment to Coach Mendenhall.

"I committed to them yesterday," said Louis. "That's when they offered me. Right after they offered me I committed a little later."

The reason it didn't take long for Louis to commit is because his mind had been made up for a while now.

"When I took my official visit in June, I saw the environment and how it was," Louis said. "It was different there and I really like it. Then the coaching and the coaches that are there are great. It was just different from the start and, of course, the people and players that are there are different. I just felt like I was already a part of the team. After that visit, BYU was the place that I wanted to be and play football. I just had to wait for them to offer me."

Louis hasn't visited other colleges, but even if he did it might not have mattered.

"I didn't get a chance to go to other schools," said Louis. "I only visited BYU and I was just like, ‘If BYU offers me, this is where I want to go.' I was just stuck on BYU. My decision to commit to BYU was set a long time ago. It was just a matter of when are they going to offer.

"Pretty much it was because of head coach Bronco Mendenhall. I just really connected with him like I haven't with any other coach. He's just a really great guy and he talked about my future and my decisions outside of football, like my career. The way he thought of me and the expectations he has for me really caught me. It pretty much sealed the deal on me for BYU.

"He's just an outstanding human being and has a great personality. We got along really we and it just felt like we had a connection while we were sitting in his office. We just had that connection. He wanted to be my coach and I wanted to be coached by him."

Louis isn't LDS, but he holds strong Christian values, so BYU seemed like a natural fit for him.

"That did play a big role into it," Louis said. "The way that I live my life, I don't smoke or drink and already live the honor code. So, I already feel like I live like a BYU student even though I'm not enrolled at BYU right now. When I attend BYU I won't have any problems fitting in because this is how I already live my life."

Although sold on BYU following his visit, Louis left Coach Mendenhall's office without an offer.

"My older brothers just told me to commit to them if that's where my heart told me I needed to be," Louis said. "I told them that I really couldn't do that right now because I don't have an offer. I told them that I can't do that right now until the offer is on the table.

"When the offer finally came in yesterday, I called my family back in Florida and said, ‘They finally offered me!' I told them that I wanted to give them a commitment. I didn't really have a long conversation with my family because they already knew how I felt about the place. I already have a religious background, and so they were pretty much all for it too. They told me to follow my heart and BYU is where my heart was."

His mother Ilna and father Wyner are very proud of their son's BYU scholarship.

"Now my mom and dad are calling me every five minutes congratulating me," Louis said with a laugh. "It's pretty funny, but they're happy for me. My two older brothers are very excited for me too because they told me to follow my heart. They told me how proud they are of me and how I have to now work 10 times harder and keep working."

Although Louis plays defensive tackle for College of the Sequoias in California, he'll switch positions at BYU.

"I play defensive line but they wanted me to come in as an offensive tackle," Louis said. "I told the coaches that it was something that I was open to, coming from the defensive side of the ball. I think it will be an easy transition coming from the defensive side of the ball. I told Coach Weber … that after practice with my team here that I go out and play offensive tackle to give the second team a good look. I told BYU's coaches that I'm a team guy first and will do whatever is needed to help the team, so, I'm all for it."

His road to BYU has been an unexpected and fascinating one.

"We come from Haiti and we used to come to Florida every year to visit my mom, who left Haiti in 1997 to live in Florida every summer," said Louis. "Me, my brothers and my dad used to fly out every summer to visit here. It was pretty much every summer and kind of like a family tradition for my family. When school was out, me, my dad and my two brothers would leave Haiti and visit her for a month or two. Then when school started back up in Haiti we would go back to Haiti. It was so hard because we were living with our dad but we didn't have our mom around.

"We are a really close family, so not having my mom around when I was younger was really hard. When we would reunite in Florida we would talk about everything. When I was 11 years old back in 2001, we moved out to Florida and that's when our family was together again."

While living in his new home in Florida, Louis decided to give football a halfhearted try.

"Coming from Haiti, all we played was soccer," he said. "That's the sport I played growing up when I was younger, so I was pretty much just stuck on soccer. I tried football my freshman year but then after that I went back to soccer."

Eventually, he would find himself trying football again.

"I started to grow and get really big," he said. "That's when I started thinking, ‘I need to try something else.' That's when I started playing football and that's when I fell in love with it.

"It was after high school and at my junior college. I've only really started playing football last year at my college, so I only really have one year of experience because I didn't really play before that. Like I said, I just fell in love with it and it's just unbelievable."

Much like BYU's own Ezekiel Ansah when he joined the team, Louis doesn't have much football experience, but that hasn't stopped the BYU coaches from seeing his true potential and extending an offer.

"It's just so unbelievable," Louis said. "I can't really explain, it's just so unreal. I'm just so excited! It really is a blessing to me coming from Haiti and not playing football. You know, coming from Haiti I was a hard worker. We didn't really have a lot, so I had to work hard. That's something my parents always taught was to work hard. I wanted to play football and go to school, so I started working hard. I kept training and training and training and now it's all paying off. I really feel blessed for this opportunity to go to a school like BYU."

In closing, Louis wanted to say a few things to the BYU fan base.

"I just wanted to say that the BYU coaches did a great job with me and I feel so blessed that they offered me the scholarship," he said. "I want everyone to know that I'm a great guy who will come in and work has hard as I can and do my job to help the team win a national championship."

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