“His (Langi) evaluation was based on Coach (Steve) Kaufusi seeing him play a pickup game of basketball in Tonga two years ago,” said Mendenhall. “He saw a giant body that’s light on his feet and can change direction and loves working out and training.”
Langi flew to Utah from Tonga and prior to entering the MTC last week & visited with Bronco Mendenhall. That big Tongan boy he heard about from Coach Kaufusi was finally seen in person. Coach Mendenhall was shocked at his physique.
“He stops in at BYU before he goes into the MTC the next day,” Mendenhall said. “Now I get to see what Coach Kaufusi is talking about, and that’s something different. So, me telling you that he’s 6-7, 410 pounds is one thing.”
For Coach Mendenhall seeing was believing.
“If you were to see him that impact was it’s not a fat 410 pounds is a solid- lean isn’t the right word- it’s a solid looking, healthy giant man,” he said. “I shook his hands and his hand went up to my elbow! I had no intention of offering him a scholarship. I was just anxious to meet him and then say, “Man, after your mission let’s give this football thing a try.”
It’s not that often that a coach will offer a prospect that has never played the game of football before, and Coach Mendenhall had his reservations about offering Langi.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Mendenhall. “I met with him in person and seen him for 15 minutes my entire life, I have a pickup game of basketball, he’s leaving on his mission, and I just felt, ‘Why not?’”
The experience BYU had with Ziggy Ansah gave Coach Mendenhall and his staff some confidence that they could develop the talents of Langi.
“Really football is a game and the rules can be learned,” Mendenhall said. “I can’t teach 6-7, 400 pounds. I mean, I can’t make someone that. He’s already 6-7, 410-pounds and light on his feet and he’s giant and he works hard. So man, I think I’m any kind of coach at all and my staff is there’s something we can teach that guy to do. Ziggy was the opposite. He was 6-6, 280 and running a 21.9 200-meters, so how can that not be a football player? So, similar thought, yeah, but kind of a stretch in comparison but similar thought.”
Once Langi returns home from his two-year LDS mission, the BYU coaching staff will first try him out at nose tackle to see how he does there.
‘I think he can play something,” Mendenhall said. “We’re going to play him at something. We’re going to try him at nose tackle at first, and we normally require a two-gap player that can play and be big enough and strong enough to play multi-gaps. He might be a three-gap player.”
Let the legend of the “Tongan Mountain” Motekiai Langi begin.