“I kind of thought BYU was out of the picture because they had already started school and everything,” said Takenaka. “Then a couple of days into the semester they called me and offered me. I just told them that I was planning on either going to BYU or either walking on at Utah and that I hadn’t decided yet. With them starting school and everything, and I hadn’t heard from them in a while, I just planning on going up to Utah.”
Up at Utah, Takenaka had a preferred walk-on spot on Kyle Whittingham’s defense. He was thinking he would just go to Utah and earn a scholarship. However, he received a call from Nick Howell that changed everything.
“I got a phone call from Coach Howell and he told me that they were going to offer me a scholarship,” Takenaka said. “Utah was recruiting me, mostly when Kalani Sitaki was there, but when BYU offered me that changed everything. I just couldn’t turn that down.”
Takenaka was given a preferred walk-on opportunity by BYU prior to receiving a scholarship offer. However, he felt he couldn’t afford to go to BYU so he was simply planning on taking the option from Utah.
“The first thing that went through my mind when I got the scholarship from BYU was, ‘Wow, what a great opportunity this is for me,’” Takenaka said. “I had a preferred walk-on (offer) to go to BYU before I was offered the scholarship from Coach Howell. I really wanted to go to BYU, and it was a better opportunity for me, but I couldn’t go because I couldn’t afford it. That’s why I was just going to go to Utah. I wouldn’t be able to afford the tuition at BYU but at Utah I could.”
Prior to receiving his scholarship offer, Coach Howell and Takenaka has spoken about he had planned to do. Takenaka mentioned to Howell that he was going to go Utah because of the tuition situation. That’s when Coach Howell went back to the drawing board.
“Coach Howell and I talked a couple of days before he offered me. We were talking about what I was going to do between going to BYU or Utah,” recalled Takenaka. “A day or so after that he called me and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a scholarship for you, but you have to take it right now.’ I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ So, I committed to BYU.
“I was almost in shock and didn’t know how to react at first. About fifteen minutes after that I was really excited and happy knowing what just happened. Coach Howell said, ‘Hey, this is a great opportunity for you and if you want we can get you a scholarship for you.’ I said, ‘Yup, I’m totally in for that’ and that’s how it all went down.”
Leading the Badger defense with eight interceptions this season, Takenaka was named the National Defensive Player of the Week after he returned a kickoff over a previously undefeated Arizona Western back in September. At one time during the season, Takenaka led the nation in interceptions and kick return yards. He finished second in the nation with eight interceptions on the season.
“I had eight interceptions and 55 tackles,” said Takenaka. “That’s all I really remember, but I had the second most interceptions in the league. A lot of those interceptions came from the way our guys played up front.
“I play really well against the run, and I feel like that’s one of my strengths. This year they moved me to free safety so I played the post a lot and I got a lot more comfortable back there. We had a really strong defense and I was able to rely on my teammates to do their job, which made it easy for me to play and do my job well.”
Although the semester at BYU has already started, Takenaka enrolled a bit late having had to wait for the admissions process to take its course. He’ll have two years to play two and will be a part of secondary that will lose a lot of players due to attrition. Once he’s admitted he’s looking forward to spring camp and learning the defense.
“Coach Howell told me that this is a great opportunity for me,” Takenaka said. “He said there is a great opportunity for playing time really soon. I’m coming in and will try and do my best this spring and get used to my teammates and get that chemistry going. I just want to get into the program and into the defense to learn as much as I can immediate.”
Takenaka knows that means he’ll have the difficult task of trying to shut down Heisman candidate Taysom Hill during practice. It’s a challenge he’s looking forward to.
“Yeah, I know,” Takenaka said with a laugh. “I watched him all season long until he got hurt during the Utah State game. I mean that guy is a freak and one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen out there. I’m excited to practice against him and be his teammate. It’s going to be great playing with him and hopefully we can make both make both teams better. I’m excited for this season and grateful I get to play at BYU.”