Timpview High School star safety Keenan Pili is the latest Cougar recruit to say yes to Bronco Mendenhall. Last Saturday, Pili, along with his mother and father, visited BYU to inform the coaching staff that he wanted to commit to the program.
“I definitely have a great relationship with all the coaches: Coach Mendenhall and Coach Poppinga [in particular],” said Pili. “I also feel that I fit within their defensive scheme. BYU is also a place where you can get a great education with the level of academics that’s there. I think BYU is just a great fit all around for me so that’s why I decided to commit. It was awesome sitting with Coach Mendenhall and Poppinga going over some of the things when I first got offered. It was very exciting to sit down with them and finally commit.”
BYU outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga built a great relationship with Pili.
“Coach Poppinga has been great and is a great recruiter as well,” Pili said. “I’ve been keeping in contact with him for a while now going through the recruiting process. He’s been great and the things he’s done as a coach by putting players into the NFL shows how great of a coach he really is.”
Pili had many college options ranging from the Ivy League to the SEC to the PAC-12 and more in between.
“The colleges that offered me are Cal-Berkeley, Washington State, Vanderbilt, Utah State, Utah, Hawaii, Yale, Nevada, Wyoming, and UNLV,” said Pili. “I’m grateful for the offers and the opportunities that those colleges had given me, and I really appreciate the coaches that recruited me. I just feel that BYU is the right place for me.”
Despite all the attention, Pili simply felt BYU was where he needed to be.
“I believe it had a lot to do with the academics of BYU and the football program,” Pili said. “The caliber of coaches that are there at BYU and the environment just really stood out to me above all the rest. I just felt that BYU was the right fit for me.”
His commitment means Keenan Pili will join his older brother Trajan Pili, who is currently serving an LDS mission to Florida, in attending BYU. The Pili family has had a long history of playing football at BYU and Keenan Pili is the latest to follow suit.
“I’m really looking forward to playing with my brother (Trajan Pili) at BYU. I’ve never had the opportunity to play alongside my brother,” the younger Pili said. “It’s going to be great! I think it’s going to be cool doing that. We’ve both been recruited to play linebacker on opposite sides. He’s playing the Will linebacker and I’ll be playing Sam, so it’s going to be cool coming off both edges.”
Playing with a sibling on the same college team is a situation that not only excites Keenan Pili, but is also one that is rare, and he’s grateful for the opportunity.
“I think it’s going to be great going to the same school, playing on the same team, and being around my older brother at the next level,” Pili said. “I’m really looking forward to the experience because a lot of guys don’t get a chance to play college football with their older brother. I’ve never played with my brother so going to practice and learning the defense together is going to be special for me.”
His older brother Trajan will be home next February and then the two Cougars will be reunited after two years of absence due to missionary service.
“Yeah, he’ll be home two days after signing day, so he’ll miss me signing my LOI to BYU by that much,” said Pili. “I’m also going to go play in the Semper Fi Bowl game in California and he’ll miss that by about a month.”
After committing to BYU, Keenan Pili sent his older brother an email informing him of his decision to join him at BYU.
“I sent an email to my brother and let him know that I committed to BYU, but he probably didn’t get it the next day,” said Pili with a laugh in his voice. “I’m sure when he gets that it will be a shocker to him. I’m sure he’s probably pretty excited over there in Florida. I don’t think he gets it until Monday”
While it would seem like a no brainer to simply commit to a school where your older brother will play, Keenan Pili took a more methodical approach to his final decision. He wanted to do what was best for him and took that approach to the recruiting process.
“There was a little bit, but my goal was to find out for myself on where I felt was best for me and where I fit in,” Pili said. “I tried to take him out of the picture as much as I could. Now that I feel that BYU is that place I’m really excited to know that I’ll be going to the same place as my brother. It’s great knowing that the place I feel is best for me is the same place that my brother will be playing at, so being able to play with him is going to be a great experience for me.”
And like his older brother Trajan, Keenan Pili will eventually set aside his helmet and pads and put on a white shirt and tie. He’ll play a year of football first at BYU, which means he’ll become acclimated to all the nuances at the college level with his brother by his side, and then will leave and serve a mission.
“I’m going to play a year first at BYU, and then I’ll head out on my mission after the season,” said Pili. “I’m only 17 and won’t be turning 18 until the end of May next year, so I’m going to wait a year before leaving on my mission. It’s going to be cool because my first year of college I’ll be with my brother who just got off his mission. I’m excited.”