What got the dice rolling for Alta High School’s Mata Hola with regards to being recruited by the BYU Cougars was his performance while attending their summer camp recently, where coaches get to take a look at many prospects in attendance up close. One prospect, who’s gone heavily under the radar, was this Alta linebacker and defensive end. Hola’s performance during the camp took him off the unknown shelf and placed him squarely on the recruiting board.
“I did really good on the first session of the second day of BYU’s camp, and they pretty much offered me after that first session I went to,” recalled Hola. “I was doing drills with the linebackers and then they took me to do some one-on-one drills and I pretty much went undefeated.
“I’m 6-2, 235-pounds and my biggest strength is probably rushing the passer. I can rush the passer with speed or power it doesn’t matter. I can do both.”
BYU coaches watched Hola perform throughout the day with a keen eye. Soon defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki had seen enough and approached Hola with a few questions in mind.
“They waited until after the practice and Coach Ilaisa Tuiaki pulled me aside and was talking to me about which school would be my favorite if I was offered by these specific schools,” said Hola. “I told him, ‘It all depends on how my visit would go. I’m not going to commit to a school when I don’t know much about it.’ Then he talked to my mom and then official offer came five minutes after we had our break.”
Upon hearing he had secured the offer from Coach Tuiaki, a rush of emotions hit Hola.
“I was just grateful,” Hola said. “I was grateful that I had that official offer from BYU and know that I have the ability to play at the next level. I feel blessed, grateful, and feel that I’ve finally proved myself. When I got the offer I felt like all those things all rolled up in one.”
So the question now is, “Does BYU move up the favorite school list now that he has that offer?” Hola replied they do.
“Yeah, they did just because it’s BYU,” he said. “They have a great coaching staff and a lot of them have connections to my family. I have a lot of connections with them.”
One connection to BYU comes by way of his cousin Tevita Hola, who played at BYU from 2008-09.
“Yeah, I’m related to Tevita Hola who played at BYU,” said Hola.
As far as a major Mata Hola is looking for at the next level, he’s thinking of a possible engineering degree due to his affinity for math.
“Probably academics the most,” said Hola. “I want to get the best education possible just in case football doesn’t work out. I want to have a backup plan. I want to go into something to do with engineering or something to do with math.”
On the football field, Hola plays a numbers game as well. He plays multiple roles, which change based on what type of defensive the Hawks want to play against an opponent.
“I play outside linebacker but I also play D-end sometimes,” Hola said. “It really depends though. If our defense is in a 3-4 I’ll play as a stand-up defensive end where I can rush the passer. It really depends on the team we’re playing.
“I’m pretty sure BYU wants me to play that outside linebacker position like I’m playing now, that hybrid linebacker position. You just have to put me in and see where I go I guess.”
Feeling he’s gone heavily under the radar, Hola does have three offers aside from his BYU offer.
“I have an offer from Utah State, Hawaii, and an offer from SUU,” said Hola. “I got offered by Utah State and just like the coaching staff for BYU, I love the coaching staff at Utah State. Coach Maile from Utah State is probably my most favorite coaches I’ve ever talked to.
“Yeah, I’m a little underrated and a lot of people don’t know much about me now. I’m in the 2017 class and so I’m going to be a senior. We had a coaching staff change at Alta, so it was hard to get out my sophomore year even though I started. The head coach at the time wasn’t really a guy who would help get you out and exposed. He’s no longer coaching here at Alta anymore.”
The importance of player exposure will no longer be a problem. Alema Te’o - the primary founder of the All Poly Camp designed to educate, train, and expose football players for the next level - has been hired on to be the new head football coach at Alta High School.
Concerning BYU’s new head coach, Hola has heard a lot about him from his brother-in-law who once played under Coach Sitake at Utah.
“My sister is married to Star Lotulelei who played for Coach Sitake when he was coaching at the U, so I already know a lot about Kalani [Sitake] and know he’s a great coach,” Hola said. “He’s a very honest guy and a great person off the field, and that’s something you look for in a coach.
“Star told me that he loves Kalani because of how great of a coach he was up at Utah. He said how all of his players that played under him love him no matter what.”
Hola feels much the same way about BYU’s defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki.
“Coach Tuiaki, I just love him as a person and you can tell he’s an honest man. He’s straight up with everyone that he talks to, no matter if it’s good or bad, and you can tell he’s honest. That’s what I like about him.”
As far as making a final decision, Hola has a little time to do so. However, he is a member of the 2017 class so he’ll have to play his timing right so as not to miss out on an opportunity.
“I’m probably just going to wait it out to see how everything goes,” Hola said. “I’ll wait till the end of the season and then let everyone know.”