"It was such a difficult thing to go through," said Uriah Leiataua. "There was so much stress about what to do and stuff like that. I'm just glad it's all over now and I feel so relieved."
After having an enjoyable official recruiting weekend in Provo, where Leiataua's initial plans where to visit just to take a free trip, his disposition instantly changed after spending time on campus. Having already committed to Stanford, what followed next were a few agonizing days of indecision leading to a last minute decision for Leiataua.
"The morning of signing day is when I knew I should go to BYU," said Leiataua. "That morning I said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father for a sign [as to] what I should do. All of a sudden right after I said my prayer, literally right after, Coach Tujague [called me up] and said, ‘Fax [your NLI] here. This is the number.' I was [surprised]. I said, ‘I guess this is the sign,' so I did it."
Leiataua also said the decision to flip his commitment to BYU came down to what felt best to him.
"It was a last minute thing for me. The reason why I chose to sign at BYU was because of a feeling. Honestly, yeah, it was more of a right feeling. After I signed the [NLI] to go to BYU I knew it was the right thing to do."
"Oh man, you could tell the moment he stepped on campus that he needed to be here," said BYU Director of Player Personnel Geoff Martzen. "I mean, he fit in perfectly with everybody here and had the time of his life. You know I kind of had a feeling it was going to happen. I wasn't sure but you could tell just by watching him interact with the guys on campus that he needed to be here."
The morning Leiataua was to make his decision between Stanford and BYU, he woke early looking for some inspirational help knowing the day had come to make a final decision.
"I woke up around four o'clock in the morning and said that prayer," said Leiataua. "After that I knew it was the right choice. I took the [NLI] out of the envelope and started reading the fine print. I went up to my mom [Vaosa Leiataua] and told her to sign it, but I covered the top so she wouldn't see what school I was going to sign with. I covered up the top and told her to sign the line."
Having finally made his decision, Uriah went to school to fax it off to the coaches at BYU.
"I went to school and already knew I made the right choice," said Leiataua. "My coach told me that I needed to fax it in at exactly 7:30, so exactly at 7:30 I was waiting for the lady to open up the office so I could fax my paper in. I go to early morning seminary so I was at the school first already and waiting for the lady to open up the door to the office for the fax machine. I was so anxious."
There ended up being a bit of a snag. After all the stress and wading his way through the trials of indecision, Leiataua stood waiting in the hallway. He was so close to the end of the road but it felt so far. He anxiously waited for a school employee to arrive so he could finally reach the end of the road.
"I was walking back and forth waiting for her to come up and open the door, so I could fax in my paper to the coaches," said Leiataua. "You know how it is when you know where you want to go and just send it in and get it over with and you have to wait to do it? So I was waiting and walking back and forth when she finally came and opened the door. I faxed the letter in around 7:30 in the morning."
Once the letter of intent was faxed in to BYU, Leiataua called up Coach Tujague and played a little joke on BYU's Offensive Line Coach.
"I called Coach Tujague and made it seem like I wasn't coming to BYU," said Leiataua. "I was like, ‘Oh Coach Tujague I'm really sorry. I already faxed my paper in. I'm actually going to go to BYU.' He was like, ‘Oh yeah? Can you say that again?' I said, ‘Okay, I'm sorry coach I decided and made my choice. I'm going to go play for BYU.' He was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa! Can you say that a little louder?' I guess he then put it on speaker and then told me to say the whole over again. I told him, ‘I'm going to be playing at BYU.'"
The room instantly erupted into cheers as BYU's coaching staff heard the news directly from Leiataua that he was coming to BYU.
"I heard all this cheering going on," Leiataua said. "I heard all this noise and cheering like, ‘Yeah!' in the background. I was like, ‘Oh wow!' and Coach Tujague said, ‘Yeah, all the coaches heard you!' I then asked them to keep it a secret because my mom didn't know it at that time. I wanted her to know first because my school wanted me to announce it our local time around 11:55 AM PST. Coach said he would keep it a secret and then I did my announcement at my school after that."
Later that day his mother Vaosa Leiataua finally learned where her son would attend college. But she wasn't all that surprised. Her motherly intuition already informed her softening the suspense during the announcement.
"She had a feeling I was leaning that way," said Leiataua. "She kind of already knew where I would eventually go, because after the official trip to BYU all I talked about was BYU this and BYU that. She knew I was going there. When she found out it was more like, ‘Okay, now that's finally over.' She kind of already knew that I would go to BYU."
Now that he's officially a Cougar, Leiataua is most excited about reuniting with those in whom he spent a short time with during the official recruiting weekend.
"Everything I guess," he said. "I'm excited about being with all the guys again, and also getting back to work and playing football but at the college level."
And one of those players is Vista Murrieta outside linebacker Tyler Cook in whom Leiataua has become very close to. Cook played a big part in helping Leiataua switch from Stanford cardinal to BYU blue.
"Oh man, Tyler is an awesome person," said Leiataua. "I love Tyler. One of those nights, when we were visiting, we had one of those cool bonding moments and it was pretty awesome. We were talking about a lot of things, and everyone feels that Tyler is like a machine on the football field but underneath he's really cool. He makes a lot of news down here locally, so I never really knew him but I've heard a lot about him. It was just really cool to see him and know who he really is underneath [it all]. That guy is BYU all the way."
While BYU's defense will be loaded with talent at linebacker with Tyler Cook, Fred Warner, Sione Takitaki, and Troy Hinds among many others, the one experience Leiataua is excited about is playing under the direction of BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall.
"I'm excited to play for Coach Mendenhall and I can't wait," said Leiataua. "It's great to have a defensive minded coach instead of an offensive minded one. It's going to be really interesting and I can't wait. I think having him as our head coach will put a lot of pressure on us as defensive players, but you what they say pressure makes diamonds. I think this defense is going to be really good in the future."
Doing his best Coach Poppinga impression, Leiataua said his future position coach was very happy knowing he would be the one coaching him in the future.
"He called me right after and was just, ‘Man, I'm really excited!'" Leiataua said with a chuckle. "He was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah!' Man, Coach Poppinga is full of energy."
Leiataua will work with Coach Poppinga learning the craft on how to play outside linebacker once he gets to BYU.
"That's what I've been recruited as," Leiataua said. "I wasn't really recruited as a defensive end and mostly recruited as an outside linebacker. I'm already used to it and have been working on that. Everyone was recruiting me to play outside linebacker. UCLA, Wisconsin, Stanford and everyone else was recruiting me to play [on the edge]."
A rising star among assistant coaches at the college ranks, Kelly Poppinga has already built an outstanding resume for developing outstanding outside linebackers. The next in line will be Kyle Van Noy who was recently invited to the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. But before Coach Poppinga can get his hand on Uriah Leiataua, the 6-4, 240-pound gridder will set aside football for two years to serve a full-time LDS mission.
"Yeah, my plan now that everything is over and done with is to go serve my Heavenly Father as a missionary," Leiataua said. "I have to talk to BYU about that [today] about what the plan is. I have to talk to them about when I should leave and when I should come back and all that stuff."
BYU works with their recruits and signees in planning the day in which they should leave and serve their missions. That way the return home to a BYU scholarship is a smooth transition.
"Yeah, I need to know if it would be better come in this summer or come in later," said Leiataua. "I'm still working on my papers but I can always change my availability date. I'm going to talk to them [today] and draw that plan up so we can schedule everything out. I kind of want to come up in the summer but it leaves me less time to get ready for the season when I come back in two years. I want to see what the better option is."
It was a difficult process but now that Leiataua has made his final decision he's happy and at peace with his decision. His voice no longer bears the strains of indecision and his words no longer reflect confusion. His mind is now clear knowing exactly where he's going, and his heart now comforted feeling he made the right decision. Welcome to BYU, Uriah Leiataua!