Leiataua Torn on NLI Day Eve

Being LDS and one who loved to play football, Brigham Young University had always been Uriah Leiataua's dream school. Last weekend he took an official visit to BYU thinking he would just take in an official visit experience and nothing more. What he experienced was something far greater than he ever imagined, and it has caused him to question and reflect more thoroughly on his future.

It was the trip Leiataua loved to hate. He loved it because it opened his eyes as to why BYU is a special place for student athletes like himself, but he hates it because he committed to Stanford but isn't sure that is the right decision now.

"I loved the trip so much I hate it," Leiataua said with a laugh in his voice. "It's kind of crazy and I just need some time to myself to think over it. It was such a great visit."

The trip to BYU was intended to be just fun for Leiataua who left for Provo with full intentions of signing with Stanford regardless. His disposition quickly changed, throwing him into a spin.

"I went to Provo with my mind against (signing there)," Leiataua said. "You know honestly I kind of just went just to go for free, and that quickly changed because they really put a hook on me. That's when I started to see things differently. I just don't know what I'm going to do. I'm still undecided about it."

Over the past couple of day, the young defensive end from Dominquez High School (CA) has been doing some heart-felt soul searching. He's been reflecting upon the quality of young men he would be surrounded by at the next level at both BYU and Stanford. A lot of his indecisiveness has stemmed from his BYU experience.

"It was really a great experience and I just don't know what to do," Leiataua said. "Being on campus and being with all the guys while there was just awesome. Seeing my future class is just awesome and hanging out with them was just a great experience. Seeing just the kind of guys they are and who I would be around was just a great experience."

There is a common thread that runs through each of the recruits BYU had offered. While they all may have come from various backgrounds and walks of life they all had a common attitude, demeanor and character among them that allowed them to bond quickly one with another.

"One day that was really amazing was Saturday night and that was awesome," said Leiataua. "It just ended on a great note. It was me and the other recruits and we stayed up late that night talking till around 5:00 in the morning. We were just talking about life and just chilling. We talked about our stories and why we liked BYU."

The camaraderie that developed Saturday night really changed things for Leiataua.

"I don't know, I just met them and had known them for (just) two days and it felt like I knew them for years. I don't know, it's just crazy because if I felt comfortable around that small group of nine kids I wonder what it would be like to be around a school like that or a whole team. It's just crazy to see how easily we connected with each other and how open we were with each other. I don't know, I never felt something like that before and it was just crazy."

One player that really touched Leiataua was fellow defensive end prospect Sione Takitaki. Growing up in an area of Southern California where everyday life is a struggle for young LDS kids, Sione Takitaki fought to evade the influences that surrounded him. Saturday night allowed an opening for Takitaki to tell his story to the other recruits about why he's coming to BYU. It was a story that touched the heart of Uriah Leiataua.

"Aw, Sione… I love Sione and I love his story and it's really cool," said Leiataua. "I think what he's doing by coming to BYU is really noble. He's coming to BYU to find help. He's not one of those Peter priesthood kind of guys. He's one of those that's coming to find help and to find his heart and I think that is noble. Sione is going to be a great player at BYU."

One has to wonder what the locker room, class room, and everyday social setting around campus would be like for him once he is around returned missionaries, married players, and teammates he's practiced and played with for years. This is something Leiataua is also wondering about and why his final decision has become a more difficult one.

"Yeah, what it's like in the locker room and being around guys like that that I've played with for years is something I've been thinking about too," he said. "I don't know, It's made things really hard for me."

One of those players Leiataua is close to is Fred Warner who has committed to BYU. Isaiah Kaufusi had mentioned in previous interview that he was going to room with Leiataua, but that ended up not happening as Leiataua roomed with his friend from California.

"Fred and I ended up rooming together," said Leiataua. "We had asked Coach Poppinga if we could room together so I kind of knew that this would be the case when I got there. Fred is great and he loved his trip too. It was just a great experience to be around those guys and seeing what it would be like. It's just very confusing and a little crazy for me right now."

Being around the recruits and getting to know them was a lot of fun for Leiataua. One fun activity that Leiataua enjoyed was playing paintball with his group of Damien Mama, Warner, Tyler Cook, and Takitaki. During the paintball activity, Mama told Leitaua that he went a little crazy- whether out of fear or hopped up on adrenaline is unknown at this time- and he accidently shot one of his teammates.

"It's funny because of what Damien did," said Leiataua with a laugh. "It's funny because he and Coach Mendenhall were on the same team, and then Damien just went crazy nuts and started shooting everyone. He saw Coach Mendenhall running away and just started wailing on him from behind. It was funny. He was just shooting everything he saw and I guess Coach Mendenhall was someone he saw, even though he was on his team, and he just started shooting. It was funny."

Being a big target one can easy to see why Damien Mama would go a little crazy and shoot anything that moved, even if that was BYU's head coach who happened to be his own teammate. For Leiataua, he was able to get a few good shots in but he also took a few himself.

"It was fun," he said. "I don't know who I picked off but I got in a few shots. My helmet fogged up so I couldn't see who they were. I don't know why but my helmet got all fogged up so I just started shooting everything that moved kind of like Damien. It was just overall fun just hanging with the guys."

Another aspect of Leiataua's trip that stood out to him was when he and the recruits went over to Coach Steve Kaufusi's house during some free time. While there they played games and spent more time one with another. The free time was a new experience for Leiataua who had been on a few official visits.

"It was cool because later that might we went to Bronson's (Kaufusi) house and he was my host," said Leiataua. "We went over to Coach Kaufusi's house and most of the recruits where there and we were just playing games and that was really fun. It was kind of weird because I've been on a couple of trips and usually when there are free nights like that you go to parties. It was just fun to go somewhere like Coach Kaufusi's house and play games and be around great guys where there was no drinking and partying stuff going on. It was just fun and that's what makes BYU unique and different. It was just fun and you usually don't have fun doing stuff like that. It was just fun playing games."

Uriah has a lot to think about and to try and figure things out, Leiataua has been spending some alone time. He doesn't want to hear from coaches at this time feeling he's heard enough. Now it's time to ponder and reflect upon his future in hope an answer will be made clear to him.

"I haven't been talking to anyone right now and it's just really crazy hearing all those voices in my head right now," said Leiataua. "I don't know, it's just really crazy and I just need to figure this out. I've heard it all before and I've heard it from both sides, so anything someone says wouldn't really add anything so I just have to take what they've already told me and hopefully I make the decision on it. I don't know; it's just crazy. I'm just trying to (make sense of) everything."

What will it come down to when Leiataua has to make the final decision on where he will play football? There's a myriad of factors involved.

"I actually did a lot of research and they say an undergraduate degree is pretty much the same everywhere. I understand that an undergrad is pretty much the same everywhere, but an undergrad from Stanford is hard to beat and, I don't know, it's just really crazy. When I go to church I actually like to try and get a feel for things. I do my homework and get the stats and stuff, but when you feel stuff when you're somewhere else, I don't know, I felt something at BYU. I don't know, it's crazy, and I have a lot to think about. I need to find the answer and I want to find the answer. I just want to feel good about my final decision knowing it's the right decision."

In the meantime Uriah Leiataua has a lot on his plate. He's going to continue to ponder and spend some time on bended knee to know what direction he should go. We hope the best for a young man who is trying to do what is right for him. TotalBlueSports.com will report on what developments come out of this decision period for Uriah as National Letter of Intent Day is happening tomorrow.

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