An unexpected course

When Ma'ataua Brown was considered the 51st best high school defensive linemen out of Paramount High School, he had one plan and one plan only. That plan was to go to college and star at the next level on the football field. Two years later, that unshakable focus has caught a new vision stemming from one remarkable visit to BYU.

Out of Compton, California, 6-foot-5-inch, 320-pound Ma'ataua Brown committed to play football for Coach Sarkisian of the Washington Huskies.

"Yeah, that's where I was planning on going to play college ball out of high school," Brown said. "That didn't happen and I came back and came down here to play ball at Cerritos."

At Cerritos College, where Brown started as a true freshman, he racked up 29 tackles (12 solo), eight quarterback hurries, 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, all the while receiving a constant double team.

Meanwhile, he recently finished up his sophomore season.

"We did alright this past year," Brown said. "I think I could have done better, but overall it was a pretty good season for me. I feel I didn't do as well as I could, but those things happen I guess. We ended up going 5-5 on the season, so as a team we didn't do as well."

At the next level, Brown will have three years to play two. He committed to BYU in mid May earlier this year after initially not being too excited about the school.

"Yeah, I wasn't really interested in BYU," said Brown, who grew up LDS. "I just didn't really think much about it and didn't really want to go up for an unofficial visit with my cousin. But we did and it was a good experience for me. I remember them telling me that at BYU, every building is like a church. So, there was no reason for me to ever miss church and school. I remember telling myself I really wanted to be stronger in the gospel because I had lost that. I just thought that BYU would be a good place for me to go to so I can keep my spirit strong and keep me happy in the Church. When I heard all that, it really helped me to make up my mind in where I wanted to go."

However, before that could happen, Brown has a few things to accomplish.

"Yeah, Coach Mendenhall told me that I had to get some things straightened out in my life," said Brown. "That visit with him was more about me than me helping them win football games. It was a lot different than what other coaches were saying. The main thing for him was for me to go back to church. His main thing was for me to get back into church. It was more about me becoming better spiritually and living my life better. Being LDS, I've always wanted to be a more spiritual person growing up. Back in the days, I wanted to be more like that, but it just wasn't much a part of life. My visit with him that day was amazing. It really changed things for me and helped me to see what was most important."

Brown returned back to Cerritos with a new course to chart. With spiritual focus in mind, and a renewed effort in the classroom, Brown set his sights on setting his life in order for the purpose of attending BYU upon graduation.

"Well, that was the plan," he said. "The plan was to graduate from Cerritos and go to BYU. Things have changed now though."

After having attended church every Sunday, Brown has decided to set aside football for two years to serve a full-time LDS mission.

"My parents talked to me about it and I started thinking about it," Brown said. "We've been going through some hard times as a family, so I thought that by going on a mission I could help bring some much needed blessings to my family. I just felt it wouldn't hurt to give up two years of my life to go serve the Lord. He's done so much for me and gave me so many blessing and opportunities. Now it's time for me to do something for him."

A couple of weeks ago, Brown informed BYU of his decision to become a missionary.

"I spoke to Coach Kaufusi and told him of my new plan," Brown said. "He asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I'm going to serve a mission now and that's the plan. He was really excited about that, so my plan now is to serve the Lord first by going on my mission, then come home and play at BYU. I'll redshirt my first year so I can get back into shape, then I'll play for two straight years."

So as of now, Ma'ataua Brown is currently preparing himself to leave his family and the sport he loves for two years. As it turns out, he may have some family with him in the Missionary Training Center, however.

"I have my little brother Michael, who was pushing to go on his mission, so when I told my parents that I wanted to go, they were really excited," Brown said. "Right now, me and him are trying to get ready so we can leave at the same time. It's kind of funny because when I committed to Washington out of high school, I wasn't planning on serving a mission. I was just planning on playing football and wasn't really thinking about serving a mission."

Brown thinks of where he once stood in comparison to where he stands now, and credits a lot of who he is today to the fact that he gave in and took that reluctant trip to Provo, Utah.

"I don't really know what to say about that really," said Brown. "Really I don't, because of how my personal talk with Coach Mendenhall really affected me. I've never had a coach talk to me about something other than football. For him it was way more important to him for me to be a stronger member of the Church than it was for me to be a great football player. It was really cool and really neat how he cares about more than just football.

"I'm really grateful that I went up there that day when I had the chance. Just that one trip helped me to be where I am at now and it changed my whole world. I don't really know how to put it in words to be honest with you."

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