BYU’s head coach and defensive coordinator were making their rounds in Southern California this week to visit both committed and non-committed prospects. One stop was in La Mirada, the home of three-star Samoan defensive end Keanu Saleapaga.
“It was an honor to actually meet a head coach,” said Saleapaga. “You know, Coach Tuiaki had actually met with me before, but this last visit was mainly to show how even the head coach (Kalani Sitake) is interested in me. It was a good visit. They’re really cool guys.”
Setting aside the same ole tiresome discussions on the X’s and O’s of football, Sitake, Tuiaki and the Saleapaga family sat together and talked about the more important facets of life.
“The conversation was mainly about who I am as a person,” said Saleapaga. “You know they already know about my athletic ability and you can find that anywhere, but they’re trying to find good character people off the field to go to BYU. They want good people to go to BYU and not just good athletes.”
The visit by Sitake and Tuiaki was a refreshing and welcome break from the norm of everyday pitches that Saleapaga has heard. This meeting was more about the person rather than the player.
“Honestly, it was different,” said Saleapaga. “They didn’t concentrate too much on what type of defensive front we were going to run. I mean, there was a little of that but mostly it was about to see who I was as a person, and about God, and family and things like that. It was more about who I am as a person rather than about what I am as a football player. It was something that really sparked my interest.”
The visit with BYU’s head coach and defensive coordinator was a breath of fresh air for Saleapaga. Being a strong Christian, Saleapaga is looking for that harbor of comfort that he can safely dock in. This environment of comfort and stability is was what Saleapaga felt USC was lacking while he was committed to the Trojans. This eventually led to both sides parting ways.
“Yeah, you know, it just didn’t feel right as far as USC,” said Saleapaga. “All the crazy things that were going on at USC as far as coaching changes, it just wasn’t all that stable there. With Coach Sitake, he told me straight up, ‘I don’t see myself leaving BYU anytime soon.’ That’s a main factor that plays a big role in my decision too, just being stable.”
An interesting twist in how Saleapaga found out he had a BYU offer came by way of an unconventional and rather humorous means. Coach Sitake and Tuiaki want Saleapaga were already so convinced that he was worthy of a BYU scholarship on the athletic side, that they simply focused all their efforts in getting to know him on a personal level. A natural assumption by the coaches led to them forgetting to tell Saleapaga something very important.
“Well, it was kind of like they didn’t have to tell me that I had [an offer],” Saleapaga said with a laugh. “I had to text Coach Tuiaki and told him my parents were wondering if I had an official offer from BYU? He was like, ‘Oh yeah, no doubt.’ When they were here visiting with me they were talking and trying to get to know me and my family, so they didn’t really talk much about the offer. They just automatically assumed that I knew that, so when I texted him he was like, ‘Yeah, sorry we didn’t come across that (clearly), but, yeah, you have a full ride scholarship to BYU.’ It was kind of funny and just shows you how much they weren’t even worried about the football side.”
When all parties were finally on the same page, there was a lot of excitement from the Saleapaga family.
“Yeah, I was excited about the whole situation. Even from the moment when me and my family saw Coach Tuiaki come walking up our driveway,” said Saleapaga. “We’ve seen him on T.V. and on the internet before, so to actually see him in person really got me excited. I knew that they would be coming by and would offer one of these days, so the actual offer wasn’t as exciting as much as what we talked about and all the things that I’ll be going through.
“I am excited about the offer. They really want me there and their interest is really high. They want me to come to BYU and play there for four years after high school. They offered me a scholarship and it was kind of funny how it happened.”
Saleapaga will be taking an official visit to BYU the weekend of January 29th. He plans on furthering his understanding of what BYU has to offer both on and off the field. There is one specific thing he’ll be looking to understand as he walks through the facilities and visits the surrounding campus.
“Yeah, I have the [last weekend of January] scheduled for BYU,” said Saleapaga. “I’m excited to get out there. I want to get out there to see if that’s a place where I can see myself being at for the next four years. I know that eventually you’re going to get homesick and all that, but I just want to go there to see if I can be more comfortable than homesick basically.
“That’s what I’m hoping to find out. I just want to be at a place where I feel comfortable and more at home. I hope my visit is better than what I think it will be.”