Soi Adjusts to Culture of East Coast Prep School

<b>Brian Soi</b>, rated the No. 2 defensive line prospect in the country by USA Today, missed being academically eligible to play football for BYU this fall by 0.5 percent on his overall ACT score. Despite the near miss, Soi will still play football this fall. Well, sort of.

After a long and arduous summer of extra credit classes and test taking, Soi, BYU's top defensive recruit signed this year, opted not to go to a junior college. Instead, he will play football this fall at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia, and take ACT prep classes.

Assuming Soi passes his ACT test this fall, he will enroll at BYU in winter and play spring ball as a true freshman.

Hargrave is a Baptist military prep-school that allows non-qualifiers to train, play football, and take classes to post passing ACT scores. BYU head coach Gary Crowton is holding his scholarship for him. He will still have five years to play four years when he enrolls at BYU.

The idea of Soi playing for an East Coast prep school apparently came from co-offensive coordinator Todd Bradford. It is an NCAA-approved option used by a number of major East Coast colleges with players in similar circumstances.

"Coach Crowton told me not to sign Brian at a JC (junior college)," his mother Pona Soi told "He said because Brian was so close they would hold a scholarship for him for next year. I am so happy they did that for Brian."

The Nebraska Cornhuskers did the same for current BYU defensive tackle Manaia Brown, who transferred to Provo months after playing as a true freshman in the national championship Rose Bowl game in 2001. The Soi family conferred with Brown for details on his situation.

Away from home, family and friends on the east coast for the first time in his life, Brian Soi yearns for the familiarities he says he took for granted. Soi just called home to speak with his mother.

"He asked me, ‘Mom, if I pass the test (ACT), can I come home right away instead of finishing the season?"

"I told him, ‘son, you just hang in there and pass the test. That's the only reason why you are there. I told Brian they (BYU) really want you. That is why they are doing all this for you."

Prep schools like Hargrave accept highly recruited athletes like Soi on scholarship. In their last conversation, Soi made a special request of his mother.

"He said he was training. He goes and lifts weights, and then he goes to lunch then practices before dinner. He asked me to send him a box of saimin (Ramen noodles)," chuckled Pona.

Trying to maintain a brave front with her son on the phone, Pona's motherly instincts and true feelings spill out after.

"I miss him so much and his brother (Justin) misses him too," she confided. "Coach Kaufusi tells me, ‘Mom, you have to stop crying when he calls. You have to be happy that he's there.' Every time he calls, I would start crying. I cried like a baby at the airport when I saw my son walk up the stairs to the airplane."

When Soi first arrived at Hargrave, the coaches quickly took him under their wing to help ease his homesickness. It didn't take long before Soi found himself fully immersed in the strict code of military conduct and culture.

"It's hard the way they train. It's military style," his mother said. "They wear uniforms over there. Brian said to me, ‘mom, you didn't have to pack all those clothes in the two suitcases.' I said why? Brian said, ‘because I can't wear anything else. We have to be in a uniform 24 hours a day.' "

Although he is away from home in a completely foreign and unfamiliar setting, Soi found comfort in the one thing he knows best – football.

"He said, ‘mom, I had a good practice today.' Brian said he destroyed all the people over there."

As the only Polynesian on the team, Soi wowed head coach Robert Brunity with his physical and dominating style of play across the defensive line. Pona said she spoke with the coaches who were very pleased with Brian's performance and reassured her they would see to it Brian passes his (ACT) test.

Coach Brunity told her, "I cannot let him go back home unless he passes the test. He needs to go to BYU because BYU wants him back."

She added: "The coach said he's going to take two tests, the ACT and SAT, in October, so he's just taking all the prep courses for that."

As much as it pained her to let her son leave, Pona Soi understands her son's experiences away from home will only help to make him a stronger man. "He's going to come back a grown man."

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