The BYU Cougars offered East High School (Salt Lake City, UT) teammates Paul Maile and Sam Vakalahi at the same time in April. The two were called out of their class and told to go to East head coach Trevor Matich’s office. The two linemen initially believed they were in trouble for doing something wrong.
“I think it is really good to get my offer from BYU because me and Paul [Maile] were talking and we got called down to Coach Matich’s office,” recalled Vakalahi. “I thought we got into trouble, I really did. He usually calls us down when we get into trouble.”
The sight of BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki instantly calmed the nerves and turned suspenseful situation into an exciting one for Vakalahi.
“We were going down and we saw Coach Tuiaki and then we were happy because we knew we weren’t in trouble,” said Vakalahi. “Coach Tuiaki was just talking to us and I was like, ‘Heck yeah!’ In my head I was like, ‘Heck Yeah!’ He told us both that we were both offered by BYU.”
Following a brief talk and after receiving his BYU scholarship offer, Sam Vakalahi was excited but also very thoughtful to not try to show off or brag about it to his classmates and fellow teammates.
“After we got offered and he left we were like, ‘Dang, we just got offered by BYU!’” said an excited Vakalahi. “Then we were like, ‘Let’s not tell anybody.’ I think me and Paul are more worried about being a good team this year. You know how we’re still young and only sophomores. We’re more worried about building our team and taking state again this year.”
However, he did tell his parents.
“I told my parents and they told me, ‘Good job! Then they say, ‘Church first and then said good job,’” said Vakalahi. “My parents were happy for me.”
Sam Vakalahi and Paul Maile both play as bookend tackles on offense as well as defense for the Leopards.
“I play right tackle and Paul [Maile] plays left tackle,” said Vakalahi. “Then on defense we both play defensive tackle too. I’m 6-3 and weigh 260 right now. Paul is around 6-4, 270 right now.”
“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Vakalahi. “I feel pretty lucky, I guess. We’re blessed to have a good coach like Coach Matich, who really does all the talking and helps us get to the next level. I think it would be awesome to play with Paul [Maile] at the next level.”
Vakalahi’s thoughts on BYU and the coaching staff is very favorable. Being LDS and having the opportunity to play for his church college, as well as the first Tongan head coach in NCAA history, is an enticing thought.
“I think their coaching staff and the environment at BYU is really good,” said Vakalahi. “I went down to their junior day and I really liked it down there. I really like Coach Tuiaki and Coach Sitake. They’re great coaches and really good role models.
“I like how Coach Sitake told us that he won’t offer any kid that doesn’t respect their parents. That’s something that I can understand and that’s a big thing and can understand why he would say that. If you don’t respect your parents then you won’t respect your coaches.”
As of right now Sam Vakalahi isn’t 100 percent sure about serving a mission, but it is something that he is thinking about in the near future.
“I’m not sure right now and I still have two years to play in high school,” said Vakalahi. “I think when I’m a little older and understand the gospel better I’ll probably go, and then I’ll go to college when I come back.”
In the meantime the big Tongan from East High School is planning on heading down to BYU’s campus this summer to attend one of BYU’s summer camps. It’s something he’s looking forward to.
“Yeah, I’m going to go down with Paul Maile to BYU’s summer camp,” said Vakalahi. “I had a lot of fun down there with the old coaching staff, so I want to go down there and see the new coaching staff and learn from them. I’m looking forward to it.”