“Well, it was awesome, you know, and it my first visit to a college football practice,” Pilimai said. “It was a really good experience for me. I think the environment overall was just really good, and you know that’s why the boys in my family are pushing me as hard as they can to go there is because of the environment. Then I had Keenan [Pili] there with me also, so we were just kind of getting a firsthand experience of what we would experience because it would definitely have a huge impact on us. You know, I thought it was pretty cool.”
“It was awesome!” said his cousin Keenan Pili. “We got to watch the practice and I love watching Coach Poppinga coach because he’s always so enthusiastic. He definitely knows what he’s doing.”
While on their way down to BYU, the two close cousins struck up a conversation of what it would be like to play alongside one another, or to possibly play against each other at the next level.
“Yeah, we kind of struck up a conversation about playing together at BYU, and we also talked about possibly playing against each other as well,” said Pilimai with a chuckle. “We understand this is a huge blessing and Keenan has helped me put things into perspective. It’s been great that he’s been there to help me in a lot of ways.”
Although currently committed to Utah, Pilimai has an offer from BYU, Oregon State, Washington State, and Utah State. However, he wanted to check out BYU’s campus and watch his first ever division one practice.
“I mean, being over there I really got a taste of what the coaches are like and what the people are like,” Pilimai said. “The environment over there and how it is among the team is something that I got a little taste of what it would be like if I went there. That definitely was a positive. Coach Poppinga kind of pulled aside and talked with me. He just kind of talked to me about the positions that I would be playing there. Overall I just learned more about the coaches and what to expect being a BYU Cougar.”
“I think he thought the experience was cool,” said his cousin Pili. “I think he really enjoyed his time. We were talking to Vic So’oto and he was just kind of showing us around the practice, which was pretty cool.”
Pilimai had committed over the phone to former BYU middle linebacker, now current Utah assistant coach, Justin Ena. However, having been on BYU’s campus, and having learned more about what BYU has to offer LDS athletes, Pilimai has a broader understanding of the options he truly has.
“It definitely gave me more things to consider,” Pilimai said. “BYU and Utah both run great but different defenses, so as a defensive player understanding my role at BYU and understanding my role at Utah just gave me a better idea of what do I want for myself in the future. It helped me kind of understand what BYU would want me to do and what they would expect from me. It’s that way now from both schools, so obviously it’s now a difficult decision for me overall. It just kind of game me more things to consider.”
Over the Thanksgiving break, Pilimai had some down time to think about his options. Currently he’s looking what he can get out of his scholarship and how his scholarship provides what’s most important to him.
“Well, obviously education is first. I want to be able to have a career to a path for football,” Pilimai said. “I want to major in sports marketing. You know, anything that has to deal with athletics. That’s what I want to focus all my efforts in. Then I want to put myself in a position where I can be a leader not just on the field but off the field. You know, where I can lead by example and kind of point people in the right direction aligned with the church.
“I just want to be a leader overall. Then I would like to be close to family but not too close. I want to be close enough to have the support if I need it. There’s still a lot of things I need to learn and figure out. Over this past Thanksgiving break I’ve had more time to think about things more. I was just really grateful that I could make it up to BYU and have the BYU coaches and the Utah coaches helping me to kind of sort things out.”
In the end BYU gave Pilimai much more to think about. With a greater understanding he’s now taking a closer look at his options that in the end will make a final decision even more difficult. Still, he’s grateful for all the opportunities he’s been given
“I don’t take anything for granted,” said Pilimai. “A year ago I never would have imagined I would have been in this position or have any scholarships for that matter. I’m very grateful for the position I’m in and really think it’s a blessing for me. Signing day’s in February so I still have a little time to think it over. I’m still pretty confident with my commitment right now, but I still have some time to think it over and take things under consideration. I still have a lot of things to think about.”