Former East High School (UT) standout Ula Tolutau broke a state record with 13 games of 100-plus yards rushing. On only 195 carries, he averaged 12.5 yards per attempt and scored 31 touchdowns, 16 came by way of 40-yards or more, running 1,254 yards his senior year in 2013.
Tolutau was as a member of the 2014 recruiting class, but in May of 2013 he committed to Wisconsin as a 6-1, 225-pound running back. He held offers from BYU, Utah, Utah State, Hawaii, but the former “Mr. Utah” chose the Badgers prior to serving a two-year LDS mission.
“My mission was good,” Tolutau said. “I served in Bakersfield, California. There are a lot of great people there, and there were a couple of people there ready to receive the gospel. Barstow was part of my area too.
“The church is growing pretty good. I went Spanish speaking so there were a couple of Spanish wards out there that continue to grow.”
Since his return home earlier this year Tolutau has grown in many ways. The person that he was prior to signing his National Letter of Intern in 2014 is a little more mature with different perspectives, and with those more refined perspectives, where he would like to play football has also changed.
He decided to decommit from Wisconsin feeling he wanted to play his college ball closer to home where he would have more in common.
“The recruiting process is going good,” Tolutau said. “BYU is recruiting me and so is Utah. Utah State is also recruiting me so everything is going cool with the recruiting.”
Recently, Tolutau visited BYU and has attended two home games. His official visit was during the Southern Utah game, but he returned for a second time for the blackout game where BYU beat Utah State 28-10 last Saturday.
“I took my official when BYU played SUU,” Tolutau said. “It was good. It was definitely fun. You can feel the love the coaches have for the players. That was my first time being at BYU’s stadium. It was a good trip.
“I was also at the blackout game when BYU played Utah State. I went with my little brother and his friends. We all went and it was good to see the boys over there.”
When Tolutau visited BYU, there was something about the coach and player interaction that reminded him of his former glory days at East High School. A well-known fact about Kalani Sitake is his focus on the development and concern of his players. This caught Tolutau’s attention.
“When I was at BYU I kind of felt like I was at East High School for a little bit, because Coach Sitake is a player’s coach,” said Tolutau. “He’s all about the players being first then him, you know? So, I really liked that a lot.”
Now that Tolutau is looking for a new college to call home, there are a few specifications he’s looking at prior to making a final choice.
“I’m looking for an offense that surrounds me and that I can fit in,” he said. “Of course I want a positive surrounding and environment at my school. You know how it is, it’s been two years since I’ve played so I want to just get back in and play already.”
Traditionally, BYU has been the home of big Polynesian running backs going back to Lakei and Hema Heimuli in the early 80’s and moving on to Moa Peaua, Fahu Tahi, Harvey Unga, Fui Vakapuna, Manase Tonga, Paul Lasike, and most recently Algernon Brown. Tolutau has thought about continuing that big Poly back tradition at BYU.
“Yeah, yeah I have,” he said.
But what does he think of BYU’s all-time leading rusher Jamaal Williams who just broke Harvey Unga’s school record?
“He’s bad!” Tolutau said. “I like the way he runs. He runs with a lot of heart.”
Tolutau wants a positive environment - which makes sense being a member of the LDS faith and a returned missionary - and he wants to be a part of a program that fits his abilities as a football player. He’s taking a hard look at all the in-state schools.
“Yeah, I am,” he said. “I am looking hard at BYU. It’s going to come down between BYU or Utah. I’m going to see Utah State too.”
Academics along with the spiritual component found on college campuses often take precedence for those returning from two-year missions. This is an aspect of college life Ula Tolutau is looking for at the next level.
“Yeah, I think all three schools [BYU, Utah, Utah State] have spiritual things that can be found there, but BYU especially being the flagship university for the members [of the LDS faith],” Tolutau said. “That really is an attractive thing, but not only that but because there are a lot of Polys there too.”
Tolutau has an idea of when he’ll make that final commitment firmly set in mind.
“Yeah, I think mid-December is when I’ll make my decision,” said Tolutau. “That’s when I want to make my commitment.”
However, prior to any commitment decision is made, the returned missionary will get down on bended knee for direction. Upon receiving an answer, he’ll then follow the counsel and inform the coaches of his decision.
“I going to take it to Him and see what’s up,” said Tolutau. “After taking it to Him I’ll know where I need to be. Then I’ll make a commitment decision.
Stay tuned Cougar fans. Come mid-December the winner of the Ula Tolutau sweepstakes will be known.