BYU has been recruiting Handsome Tanielu since he was a junior at Waianae High School in Hawaii. Last week, he signed his national letter of intent with BYU, becoming the first recruit to sign in the Kalani Sitake era.
“I honestly can’t give you a logical reason why I signed with BYU,” said Tanielu. “It wasn’t about numbers or logistics. It was all about my heart. I had committed to Utah in July and Utah has a good program. I think Coach Whittingham knows what he’s doing, but when I took my visit to BYU about two months ago, it really hit me hard. When you have a feeling that BYU is the place for you, you follow that feeling. When I took my visit it was just a huge impact on my heart. What BYU stands for and the type of players they have there really hit me hard. It just felt good that my heart was telling me where I need to be.”
With 33 scholarship offers on the table, Tanielu went through a process that was based more on personal guidance than anything else. As he educated himself more about the schools he felt a great affinity towards, he realized BYU met every mark.
“I ended up finishing the season with 33 offers and I had a lot of good ones on the table,” Tanielu said. “People were telling me that I was crazy for not picking this one or that one, but BYU stands for something more than just football. It’s bigger than just a football program, and I’m blessed to play the game and represent something bigger than football. If I’m going to play the game of football I might as well do it and represent that message at BYU.”
Even while he was committed to Utah last summer, Tanielu felt something was still amiss. He wasn’t fully sure if Utah was where he needed to be but felt that regardless he was committed to a good defensive program in a state he loved.
“I had committed to Utah in July and the season went along I felt alright about the decision,” Tanielu said. “My commitment to Utah was never really solid. It was something that never really felt fully right. If anything, I knew that I would be in the state of Utah and I love the state of Utah. At that time with the knowledge that I had I felt that Utah was the better place for me. Then as time went buy I got into my recruitment a little bit and coaches started contacting me.”
As signing day loomed ever closer, Tanielu’s heart began to stir. A stronger desire to know if his decision to stay committed to Utah was the right one became more and more a deeply-seeded question.
As time got closer for me to make a final decision I thought, ‘Wow, I really need to take this serious,’” Tanielu said. “About two months before signing day I felt I needed to make sure. I took my visit to BYU, and actually wasn’t really considering BYU. [I did it] out of respect for Coach Kaufusi who recruited me since I was a kid back in Hawaii. I just felt I needed to give him the respect and chance that he deserves since he had been recruiting me for so long. I took my visit to BYU and it wasn’t flashy, or fancy, but everything was just right and happened at the right time.”
The tables turned in BYU’s favor about two weeks prior to signing day. Still Tanielu wanted to make sure his final decision to sign with BYU was the right one, so he tested his feelings last time.
“I think two weeks before signing day I was pretty sold on BYU,” said Tanielu. “It just felt like the right place for me, but I wanted to put that feeling to the test. I took a trip up to Utah, and when I was done I realized that BYU was the place for me. I just waited to see who was going to be the head coach at BYU, so I waited for that to happen to see who it was. When Kalani was hired he was the one that I wanted all along, so that just made things even better for me.”
Many felt the reason Tanielu switched from red to blue was simply because Utah decided to pull the offer from the nation’s 3rd-ranked JUCO defensive tackle, or that he simply didn’t want to compete for a starting job. This is far from the truth according to Tanielu.
“You know, Utah told me the day before and on signing day that they wanted me,” said Tanielu. “Utah never pulled my offer. I mean, you don’t call kids that you’ve pulled their offer from. If Utah had pulled my offer that just means they didn’t want to compete for me. I don’t know how that rumor came about, but the Utah coaches were always following me on social media. I think they had an idea that I was leaning towards BYU.
“I talked to Coach Whittingham on Tuesday and he asked me what was going on. I really didn’t have an answer for him. If Utah wanted to pull my offer they would have done it a long time ago and not continued to call me and recruit me. They did that right up until signing day pretty much. People say I was afraid of the competition at Utah, but if I was afraid of the competition I wouldn’t have committed to them in the first place. There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’m a baller and that’s what I do. I committed to BYU because that’s where I felt I needed to be. It’s the right place for me and when you feel you need to be at a place you shouldn’t ignore those feelings. That’s something that I don’t do.“
Tanielu gains the distinct mark of becoming the first ever BYU players to sign at BYU in the Kalani Sitake era. It isn’t a bad start for Coach Sitake, given the fact Tanielu is a four-star recruit and one of the nation’s top defensive tackles.
“I’m pretty ecstatic about Kalani Sitake being hired on as the new head coach,” Tanielu said. “I can’t even put it in words. I’ve never been more excited about a spring camp than I am about putting on that BYU jersey this spring camp. I’m excited for that schedule and it’s going to be good test for me to know where I stand. I’m excited to be over there with Coach Sitake and Coach Tuiaki, but more importantly I’m excited about being over there with Coach Kaufusi. It’s going to be a much different team than it has been over the past 11 years. I’m excited about this opportunity to play for BYU. This means I get to play football and represent my values on and off the field for a new coaching staff that will make history. I couldn’t be more happier with my decision.”