Coming in at 6-5, 280-pounds, Mo Unutoa is considered to be the top offensive lineman in the state of Hawai’i, and as such he was naturally invited to play in the inaugural Polynesian Bowl game recently played in Honolulu.
“That was a really good experience and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Unutoa said. “Throughout the whole week leading up to the game we all had a lot of fun. Even the practices were fun and got to meet some new friends out there. It was a really good experience.”
Unutoa visited BYU over the summer on an unofficial visit, but he also recently took an official visit to Provo as well. The experience left a big impression on him.
“I had a good time with the coaches that came over to visit me in my home,” said Unutoa. “When I took my visit to BYU that was the most fun I had on a visit of all the visits that I took. When I was on campus, I just had a special feeling when I was there that I didn’t feel at any of the other colleges.”
Recently Kalani Sitake, Ty Detmer, and Mike Empey paid Unutoa an in-home visit. All three coaches played with Mo’s father Morris at one point during their time together at BYU. When the old BYU Cougars reunited it was more like a family reunion of sorts than an in-home visit.
“My dad played with Kalani and with Detmer over there at BYU and then when he played with Detmer when they were both playing in the NFL for the Eagles,” said Unutoa with a chuckle. “He also played with Coach Empey as well. All three of them came over to my house for a home visit. It was kind of funny because they were all talking about old times. It was a lot of fun having them around for dinner listening to their stories. I think my dad might have gotten a little more attention than me! It was a lot of fun.”
In reflecting upon his official visit to BYU, what is that made BYU special to Unutoa? Well, it all came down to that quiet but special feeling Unutoa felt in his heart that made his trip really stand out.
“When I go on all these visits to all these colleges I just look at that feeling that I belong here,” Unutoa said. “I was looking for that sense of belonging and I felt that at BYU. It was really strong there. Also I felt the spirit when I was at BYU. I don’t mean to get all religious and everything, but when I was at BYU I felt the spirit there and that was something I really like.”
While on his official visit, Unutoa learned about BYU’s outstanding business program, which he hopes to major in.
“Yeah, I want to go into business administration and when I was there we went over to the business building, and we got to go to the Marriott Center and see everything,” Unutoa said. “They have a really good program over there and I was really impressed. I was talking to a coach and he said BYU provides a lot of opportunity. He said a lot of the players there already have jobs and internships and are doing really well out there. That made me really exciting to know that I could go out there and do that.”
Like many recruits watching Coach Sitake in his first year as head coach, Unutoa took note of the success the Cougar program had given the tough schedule.
“I really love the whole coaching staff out there,” Unutoa said. “When I took my visit out there I got to know all the coaches, and I knew some of them before because a lot of them are my dad’s friends when they were old teammates. I just really like what they’re doing out there. The first year for them to go 9-4, that’s really good. When I was on my visit I was talking to some of the players and they wish they could have played all four years for Kalani.”
BYU offensive line coach Mike Empey has been Unutoa’s primary recruiter throughout the process. Mo Unutoa holds Empey in high regards.
“He’s really cool and I really like the way he recruits,” Unutoa said. “He’ll text me all the time but not so much that it’s annoying. We’ll talk on the phone when he can call maybe once a week or so. We have a really good relationship and I like him a lot.”
Considered to be the number one offensive line recruit in the state of Hawai’i, Unutoa could have transferred from Kapa’a High School, which is in a division two league, to one of the more powerhouse programs in the state of Hawai’i. However, he decided to stay home on the island of Kauai.
“I would give all the credit to hard work,” Unutoa said. “I’m the only division two player that got invited to the Polynesian Bowl that’s ranked. I could have gone to St. Louis or Kamehameha my sophomore year, but I wanted to stay home and work hard. No one from the island of Kauai got this much attention, so I think it’s really good for me, my family, and the community over here.”
Hawaii was the first to offer Unutoa with BYU being among programs to offer him early. He currently has 11 offers on the table with BYU being among his top choices.
“I was first offered by Hawai’i during my sophomore season, and then I think Colorado or Washington State was the next to offer,” Unutoa said. “Utah has offered me, Vanderbilt, Central Florida, UNLV, Oregon State, San Jose State and a few others. I currently have 11 offers and Virginia was my last offer.”
“What is importance for me is that sense of belonging and that’s important to me,” Unutoa said. “I want to feel that, ‘This is the place for me.” Also education is important to me and how good the program that I want to major in is. I’m also looking at the players and coaches to see how I fit in with them and if I can have fun playing football.”
So the question now is, “How does BYU stack up against his check list?”
“BYU does really good,” Unutoa said. “I don’t have a number for any of my schools yet, but BYU is for sure going to be in my top three out of the eleven. I’m going to decide on my top five or top three probably a day before signing day [today].”
If Mo Unutoa does decide to go to BYU he’ll be able to continue the Unutoa legacy by following in his father’s footsteps. It’s something that he’s thought about a little and knows that is something his family would like.
“Yeah a little bit and my family is always talking to me about that,” Unutoa said. “My dad was a good player over there and I have a chance to follow in his footsteps and maybe be a little better. I don’t know. I feel a little bit of pressure from my dad. He hasn’t told me to go to BYU, but inside I know that’s where he would like me to go.”
Unutoa plans on serving a mission following high school. He’s informed all the coaches recruiting him that this is a top priority for him after playing a year of college football.
“I’ll play year first then go on my mission,” said Unutoa. “I’ve let all the coaches know that this is something I want to do, so luckily all of them said they would hold my scholarship until I get back. I’ll play for a year and seeing how that goes. Then I’ll decide to go on my mission afterwards.”