Baldwin HS (HI) two-way lineman Paula Finau grew up dreaming of playing at BYU and he has to opportunity to do so

Last summer an offensive lineman from the Hawaiian island of Maui was offered by the BYU coaching staff during the Cougars’ summer camp. He's attended a BYU home game and has loved everything about BYU ever since he was a young boy.

The coaching staff of BYU has taken an active interest in recruiting the island of Maui, and that's probably not by accident. Ever since BYU's Director of Player Personnel Jack Damuni returned to his Alma Mater as a member of the football staff more recruiting eyes have been pointed that way.

One such example is 2017 class two-way lineman prospect Paula Finau of Baldwin High School who was offered by BYU last summer.

I play at Baldwin High School in Maui," Finau said. "I'm 6-4, 330-pounds and I play anywhere on the o-line. My freshman and sophomore years I played center. My junior year I played guard at St. Louis High School, and then my senior year I came back to Baldwin where I'm finishing off my football season at left tackle."

While living in Maui, Jack Damuni played an active role in the lives of young football players learning to play the game. The Big Boy League served as a preparatory youth program for middle school athletes that were traditionally barred from playing in organized games. It was here that Damuni played a big role.

"I'm just going to keep working towards what I want to accomplish in life," Finau said. "I know the coaches want me to accomplish many things in my life. I have a coach that came from Maui and went to BYU. Jack Damuni was my coach here in Maui ever since I was in the Big Boy League out here. I can't thank him enough for what he's done for me. He's a great guy."

Although a senior in high school, Finau still remembers the role Damuni played in his life long ago as a young football player. That association formed years ago no doubt played a big role in discovering the many talents of Finau.

"Right now BYU is recruiting me as a full-ride scholarship athlete," said Finau. "BYU has been recruiting me since I went up to a summer camp in June this year. That's when I got my scholarship when they offered me right there and then."

While Jack Damuni laid the foundation, the recruiting baton has been passed to offensive line coach Mike Empey and BYU's director of recruiting operations Tevita Ofahengaue.

"Coach Empey is the O-line coach at BYU and he's the one that gave me the scholarship," Finau said. "The recruiter from BYU that has come down (to visit) as been Tevita Ofahengaue. He's been keeping track of me and seeing how my grades are, telling me to finish high school off strong no matter what."

As a two-way lineman the question now is where to place Finau? A quick footed 6-4, 330-pounds, Finau would make a great pulling guard. However at the same time, Finau would also make for a very big defensive tackle as well. It's a decision the BYU coaches have left up to him.

"They're not sure where to put me yet," Finau said. "They want me to choose either O-line or D-line because I play both ways. I kind of like pancaking guys but I kind of like sacking the quarterback, so I don't know what to choose right now. I'm kind of stuck in between."

BYU is the heavy favorite right now for Finau's signature come National Letter of Intent Day and there are many reasons as to why. First BYU is his church college and Finau has a strong desire to serve a two-year mission.

"Overall I love BYU and it's a very positive program," Finau said. "The atmosphere is great and I love being around those coaches. Everything about BYU makes me very happy. I've been to one of their games and I've watched them play. They're a great team and I have to keep working hard if I want to play out there.

"Also because for me I want to stay active in the church and I'm Mormon. I think BYU would help me stay on the straight and narrow path. I also want to serve a mission, and when I finish serving my mission I want to come back and play football again. All of my older siblings have served missions, and I've seen the blessings that have come to my family because of missions. They told me there was no greater experience than going on a mission."

Second, Finau loves BYU's new coaching staff and the potential found in the program.

"I feel like BYU has a great coaching staff that's very enthusiastic," Finau said. "I love the energy around them. The way I see videos on Facebook about how they treat little kids has really opened my eyes.

"I also think BYU has so much potential, honestly. They're a very young team on the rise right now. I like how Coach Sitake takes risks like in that overtime (Utah) game where he went for two. There's nothing more that I could be proud of. He's a great coach and I love watching BYU. I've watched every single game this season and watch the O-linemen to see how they play. I love playing in the trenches."

And last but not least, Finau has grown up cheering for the Cougars ever since he could put on a football helmet. He even made a promise to his parents that one day he would suit up in the blue and white of BYU.

"I've always wanted to go to BYU since I was a young kid," Finau said. "I've always dreamed about playing for BYU. I told my parents that one day I would be playing on that team, and my dreams came true as I worked towards my goal every day trying to get better."

Given Finau's childhood desire to one day play at BYU, the LDS affiliation, academics, coaching staff, facilities, and rise of the program, he places BYU very high on his list

"On a scale from one to ten I would give BYU a ten, honestly," Finau said. "I love the coaching staff out there and they're just so positive. The atmosphere is the best and the intensity is very high. They have high expectations for me and want me to be the best I can be. That's why I would give BYU a ten." 

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