BYU defensive end Logan Taele’s meteoric rise from a walk-on linebacker who was cut and transformed his body in hopes of living his dream as a member of the BYU Cougars has been well-chronicled this season. Taele was a linebacker and defensive end in high school who signed with Weber State after graduation. Upon Taele’s return from the mission field he opted against playing for the Wildcats and instead attempted to walk-on at BYU but was cut.
Taele was told by BYU coaches that they didn’t need outside linebackers at that time but instead needed defensive lineman. Taele took note, trained hard, and gained 70 pounds, topping out at nearly 300-pounds last season. He made the squad and has been a mainstay on the BYU defensive line since mid-way through last season as a 293-pound rock in BYU’s 3-4 scheme at both nose tackle and defensive end. Could BYU have another player in the mold of Logan Taele down the road? Uepi Kaufusi hopes so.
Uepi Kaufusi is a 6-foot 1-inch, 240-pound defensive end/outside linebacker who prepped at Rancho Cucamonga High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Kaufusi’s last name makes you wonder where in the famed Kaufusi family tree he lands, and how closely related to BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi he may be. Allow Uepi to explain.
“It’s a whole different lineage actually,” Kaufusi explained. “I am from the Fijian Kaufusi‘s. I am not sure where Bronson and Steve Kaufusi come from (writers note-they are of Tongan descent) but we’re all related on some level.”
Uepi Kaufusi will be leaving on his LDS mission Tuesday. He is headed to the El Salvador and Belize mission and will speak Spanish. In keeping with the Logan Taele comparisons, Kaufusi has hopes of playing football upon his return from the mission field as a walk-on at either Utah or BYU. He also was recruited by Weber State during his prep career.
Uepi had a cousin attend Utah and he grew up initially a Ute fan but has he had more family attend BYU as he grew older, he came to root for both schools.
“I will make a decision between Utah and BYU after my mission,” Said Kaufusi. “Right now, I am leaning more towards BYU. The school’s academics are outstanding and the football program is outstanding as well. I have nothing against Utah though.”
Kaufusi was a mainstay on the defensive line at Rancho Cucamonga, collecting 71 total tackles and 6 sacks for the Cougars in 2013 and 2014. He hopes that BYU coaches will give him a chance to continue to chase his dreams as a football player upon his return from the mission field, regardless of where he lines up on the field
“If they want me to play defensive line, I will play there,” Kaufusi explained. “I am more comfortable on the line but I will play linebacker if they want me there as well.”
BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi asked Uepi to work on his speed, agility, and loosening his hips up as a starting point for playing football at the next level and it’s something Uepi has taken to heart. He reports running a 4.9 second 40 yard dash and is open to gaining good weight in order to play defensive line in BYU’s 3-4 scheme. Will Uepi Kaufusi’s story play out like Logan Taele’s? Check back for spring ball in 2018.