The 2015 football season for Layton High School is over, and quarterback Tayler Katoa is already looking towards his senior season. However in reflection, Katoa can see progress both within himself and as a team from year to year.
“I only started three games last season (2014) as a quarterback,” Katoa said. “This past season (2015) I played the entire year at the quarterback position. The season went much better than last year and we went five and four. It was overall just a much better year than last year. I feel like I wasn’t able to put up the kind of stats that I wanted to, but I feel as a team we did a lot better. We made a ton of improvements.”
While his junior year may not have gone as well as hoped recruiting has picked up for Katoa. New colleges and their recruiters have popped up on the Katoa's recruiting radar with interest over the course of this past football season.
“Recruiting has picked up a lot this year and I’ve gained a lot of interest from a lot of new schools,” said Katoa. “I started talking to Washington a bunch and Cal is really interested. A lot of the Pac-12 schools have contacted me and have been showing interest in me. It’s just the usual mail from different schools and things like that.
“When it comes to BYU, I stay in touch with them every week. I’ve been up to a couple of games and I love it up there. Me and Coach Howell stay in contact quite a bit.”
Although Katoa plays both ways for Layton High School, BYU is recruiting him as a quarterback. At 6-2, 210-pounds, Katoa is very athletic as a dual-threat gun-slinger who tore it up at the All Poly camp this past summer. He was the heart and soul of Layton’s team last season.
“BYU is still recruiting me as a quarterback,” Katoa said. “I get hand written letters from Coach Howell all the time, and I’m always getting messages from him. Then of course, all the mail I get from BYU. They’ve come up to Layton and watched me play in games, so, yeah, they’re still on me pretty heavily.”
BYU’s 2016 recruiting class will make history. It will be the first time in the school’s storied football program that a minority quarterback will sign in African American in Jaren Hall, who has already committed to BYU. The 2017 class could also be a historic signing class as well. Taylor Katoa, who is Tongan, could be the first Tongan quarterback to sign at BYU if he chooses. Katoa has thought a lot about the historic fact that he could be BYU’s first Tongan quarterback.
“Yeah, I actually have and think that would be an awesome opportunity,” said Katoa. “I think being the first Tongan quarterback at BYU would be an awesome opportunity, especially if they’re going to give me a shot at it. I think that would be a major point in my recruiting and decision.”
The fact that BYU will have some very seasoned and extremely capable quarterbacks in the program when he finally arrives on campus doesn’t bother Katoa one bit.
“Well, football is always a competition,” said Katoa. “No matter where you go there’s always going to competition and nothing is guaranteed. I’m just going to prepare myself as best I can for the next level, so I can be the best I can be. I think it’s cool because in order to be the best you have to compete against the best.”
When it comes to the history of developing outstanding quarterbacks, BYU’s prestige as “Quarterback U” is well documented. This facet of BYU’s program hasn’t been lost on the mind of Katoa who knows he could be the next in a long line of famed BYU quarterbacks.
“Getting an offer from BYU means a lot to me,” he said. “First off, I grew up a BYU fan and both of my parents went to school there. I’ve probably been to over 50 BYU games and have been to so many BYU games. I’ve been around the program a lot, and then for them to believe in me and give me an opportunity to play there is just a crazy feeling. It’s an amazing feeling to know they believe in me enough to play quarterback there. It’s a great feeling.”
One quarterback that Katoa loved watching was BYU’s Taysom Hill. Being a dual-threat quarterback himself, Katoa followed the development of Hill with a keen eye for personal reasons.
“I love watching Taysom [Hill] and he was just an exciting player to watch,” Katoa said. “He just made things happen and made the best out of everything he did. It was cool to watch him develop from year to year at BYU. At first he relied heavily on his legs and then he became a really good pocket passer. He was an exciting player to watch. It would have been scary to see what he could have done this year if he had stayed healthy. It was really cool to see how he developed at BYU, and it makes me think of my future.”
When Hill went down with a season ending injury, Tanner Mangum, a freshman who hadn’t played a game in years, stepped in at the helm of BYU's offense. Mangum’s incredible season and performance as a true freshman hasn’t gone unnoticed to Katoa either.
“They really prepared him well,” Katoa said. “It’s amazing to see how the staff really got him up to speed so quickly after serving a mission. They trusted a freshman to come in and take over and he’s come in and taken care of business. I feel like they’ve prepared him well and he’s now having a great year.”
When it comes to BYU quarterbacks the one that Katoa most feels his style of play resembles is that of Taysom Hill.
“I would say Taysom Hill,” Katoa said. “Size for size I would say that I’m closer to Hill. I mean, he’s huge and is a specimen but I feel like my play is closer to Hill’s than anyone else. He’s comfortable on his legs and so am I. I’m still developing my arm and feel I can model my game after his.”
Members of the Katoa family have played at BYU back in the days of LaVell Edwards. Fotu Katoa, who is Taylor Katoa’s father, played tight end at BYU during the late 80’s and early 90’s. Uncles Fred and Andy Katoa also played at BYU during the late 80’s and early 90’s as well, so BYU runs deep within the family.
“BYU, it’s almost like family legacy,” Tayler Katoa said. “BYU is one of the four schools that have offered me right now. I’m still wide open in the recruiting game, but when I’ve gone down to BYU I always love it. I really love the coaching staff down there. Right now everything is still even for me and I haven’t prioritized anything yet.”
If Tayler Katoa did decide to choose BYU, his father, Fotu, would be ecstatic with his decision to follow in the family footsteps of becoming a Cougar.
“Oh, man!” said Tayler Katoa with a chuckle in his voice. “Of course my dad is going to support me no matter what I chose, but as a little kid he’s always said, ‘BYU, BYU!’ Then when BYU offered me he was so shocked and excited. I think if I went there he would love me just a little more as a son. It would be one of those type of things for him.”
When it comes looking at what he wants to get out of his scholarship, Katoa and two criteria he’s looking at when choosing a college.
“I think the two biggest things I’m looking for is fist I want a great degree,” said Katoa. “I’m thinking about going in to business and that’s what I want to study. I know BYU has one of the top business programs in the country. The second thing is going to a program and be able to compete for a starting spot and have a shot at playing college football.”
With one more year of high school ball left to play, Katoa is in no hurry to make a final decision. Recruiting is starting to pick up for the Layton prospect, so before a final decision is make he wants to weigh every option that might come his way.
“I’m going to wait and see what happens and see how things pick up this year with recruiting,” said Katoa. “I’m in my junior season and still have one more year left to play, so I’ll probably wait until next year. If I can figure everything out I’ll probably make a commitment going in to my senior year.”