Tomasi Laulile officially a Cougar

There was a time in which defensive end Tomasi Laulile wasn't sure if he was going to play football ever again. BYU coaches, among others, were holding out hope that he would pass the ACT so they could extend a scholarship offer. On Monday, everything was finalized and Laulile has been added to the 2013 class.

At 6 feet 3 inches and 265 pounds, Tomasi Laulile is a tough pass-rushing defensive end with a lot of upside to his game. From Westlake High School in Southern California, his potential has only begun to be tapped. The BYU coaches know this and that's why they held out a scholarship offer for him in the hopes he would pass his ACT. Wondering if he would ever play football again was a stressful time for Laulile.

"There was a time when I didn't know if I would be going to college," Laulile said. "Before I took the ACT, I was thinking, ‘Man, I might not be able to go to college out of high school. I might have to go to a community college.' I was just worrying about everything. Then when my ACT came through, I was surprised and really happy because it was a huge relief for me.

"I was really happy when I passed my ACT. I was more happy when I passed my ACT than when I committed," he continued with a laugh. "I wasn't really sure if I was going to pass it or not, so when I did, it was just a huge relief for me. I knew after that everything was going to fall into place for after that. It all just depended on whether or not I would pass the ACT. Now I have to work as hard as I can to get ready to play at another level of football. It's really incredible for me."

After learning he had passed the ACT, Laulile was soon invited to fly out and visit BYU's campus on Monday, February 18. While on campus he was extended a scholarship offer by Coach Mendenhall.

"It really makes me feel good that BYU, and the coaches over there, were willing to wait on me like they did," he said. "It really means a lot to me to know that they were willing to take a chance on me. It makes me feel good. It's great that they're more than just about football, but about education. My dad wanted me to commit while I was out there and that was his plan. It was a great trip but I wanted to come home and talk to my brother [Latu] about it first. When I told him how it was out there he loved it."

As is customary in the Tongan culture, meetings are always held for both big and small events that occur within the family. Laulile left BYU on Wednesday, February 20 to return home. The next day, members of the family gathered to discuss his scholarship offer from BYU and what should he do.

"We had a family meeting and we did it at my brother's house," Laulile said. "First, my brother stood up and spoke. He asked me if I could live by the standards and the rules, but the main issue was about me cutting my hair if I were to go to BYU."

With long locks draped over his shoulders, Laulile's hair is far from the grooming standards found at BYU.

"My brother asked me, ‘Do you think you can cut your hair?'" Laulile said with a laugh. "Everyone just looked at me like, ‘Oh no, here it comes' kind of look. I just looked at everyone and told them that I was thinking of cutting my hair before because I wanted to start off fresh for college. Everyone was happy to hear that.

"After that everyone started asking me questions about the education that BYU has and things like that. They wanted to know everything. They asked me about the business department they have over there and about the people. They wanted to know how they treated me and what they were like."

After Tomasi gave his report, the family gave him their collective support.

"After that it was all up to me," he said. "My family told me that they didn't want to make me commit to a school that I didn't want to commit to. I thought about it and told them that BYU was the school that I wanted to commit to."

That's when the emotions came out and everyone started to celebrate.

"My mom started jumping up and down and she was happy," said Laulile while laughing. "She was really excited about my decision. My dad was really happy for me but he wasn't like my mom. He kind of knew that I was going to pick BYU, so that's why, but he was really happy that I made it known to the family in our meeting. They love the fact that I'm going to go to a Mormon school and play football."

Now that he had made his decision, he had to notify the Cougar coaching staff.

"I committed on Friday after we had our family meeting on Thursday," Laulile said. "My coach said that BYU was a good place for me to go. My head coach called up Coach Mendenhall on his phone and he gave the phone to Coach Howell, because he was my recruiter. I talked with Coach Howell and I told him that I was ready to commit. He was really excited and going crazy. After he got all excited he passed the phone."

Laulile then got to talk to a few other Cougar coaches.

"They passed the phone around to coach to coach and they were all excited," Laulile said. "It went from Howell to Coach Kaufusi and then to Coach Mendenhall, and they all told me how excited they are. Coach Kaufusi said, ‘We're excited to have you and this is a big day for us. We're glad to have you.' Coach Kaufusi was surprised that I committed. He said, ‘We're excited to have you and we can't wait ‘til you come and play for us.' He said he wanted me to come in and compete as a freshman."

After committing, Laulile went about his daily activities. It wasn't until later that everything fully sank in.

"When I made the commitment it really didn't hit me until after a couple of hours after," said Laulile with a slight laugh in his voice. "I was like, ‘Man, I just committed to BYU!' I was just really overwhelmed that I had a scholarship and that I was able to make a commitment to a school like BYU. Everything just kind of hit me, knowing that there was a point in time where that might not happen. Everything hit me at that moment and I realized what had just happened to me. I was going to be able to go to college and play football, but not just any college. I was going to BYU. Man, that was really amazing to me knowing that at one point that might not be the case. It was pretty amazing to me."

Laulile has signed his letter of intent, and now everything is squared away.

"We are excited to have Tomasi coming to BYU," Mendenhall said in a press release issued on Monday. "He is a talented football player who has worked hard to put himself in this position. We look forward to having him be part of our program."

"I just want to say how grateful I am to Coach Mendenhall, and BYU's coaching staff especially, for the chance they've given me," Laulile said. "I want to let them know how grateful I am for them having faith in me and giving me that chance to go and play football and go to school at BYU."

Laulile is excited and grateful for the rare opportunity the BYU coaches have given him. He's willing and ready to work hard and looks forward to joining the team. But what about his hair? Well, he won't be cutting that until late June just prior to heading out to Provo.

"I'm going to hold onto it for as long as I can," he said with a laugh.

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