Sam Fehoko had spent the last 10 years of his life immersed in football in the town of Lubbock, Texas. From player to G.A, Sam loved being around everything that was Texas Tech and gave his heart and soul to the program. However, as the clock continued to tick his time associated with the Texas Tech program seemingly began to be wind down.
“Sam gave around 10 years to Texas Tech University,” said Sam’s mother Linda. “From being a player to a coach he was there and never went home. He adapted to being here in Lubbock and this was his home, so he gave everything to being here in Lubbock.”
“I told the boys, ‘Hey, I think we’ve done our work here. The Man upstairs wants you to move on,’” said Sam’s father Vili. “Look at how V.J [Fehoko] is up there in Utah, Sam is up there in Utah, and Breiden is getting ready to leave, so it’s just me and Linda over here in Lubbock now.”
While the sentimental heart-strings of Lubbock slowly weakened, off in the distance a quiet yet strong pulse began to beat among the shadows of the mighty Wasatch mountains. The lure of BYU grew and Sam Fehoko decided to apply for a spot with the staff at BYU to see if this pulsating lure was truly real.
“It was just a matter of time I think,” Linda said. “Sam said, ‘I’m going to Provo and I’m going to go see Kalani.’ We were so worried. He just said, ‘I’m packing my stuff and I’m leaving.’ I was just hoping everything would work out fine for him. He didn’t want to say anything to us just in case things didn’t work out like he was hoping.”
So, the former face-painted Texas Tech linebacker did just that. He packed up what he could in his car, placed his faith in God, and left his mother, father, Texas Tech, and his home of 10 years behind.
“He drove to Utah and we were so worried and Sam was adamant that this is what he wanted to do,” said Linda. “He basically packed up all of his belonging in his care and left to Provo.”
“I started praying and asking Heavenly Father to watch over Sam,” said Vili in soft tones and a tearful flutter in his voice.
A little over 14 hours and 871 miles later, Sam Fehoko arrived in Provo, Utah. It was two o’clock in the morning back in Lubbock, Texas. His mother Linda, who couldn’t sleep, and father Vili were still up hoping their son made it to BYU safely.
“I think Kalani offered to fly him down but Sam said he was coming there in his car,” Vili said. “He drove, I think, 14 hours and it was 2:00 in the morning and Linda was still up. I walked to the corner of the room and I kneeled down over there and I start to ask Heavenly Father, ‘Bless Sam… he’s on his way.’”
After humbly offering up words as a concerned father’s for his son, Vili opened his eyes to the sounds of buzzing confirmation.
“After I prayed and said, ‘Amen’ I got up and a text came over my phone. I thought it was my son Whitley in Hawai’i because of the time difference,” recalled Vili. “The text was from my son Sam and it said, ‘Love you family. Cougar nation, I’m home.’ That was his text.”
Linda also recalls that special moment in time.
“As soon as Vili said, ‘Amen’ his phone starts going off and then my phone starts going off!” Linda said. “He picks up his phone, and I’m up and I pick up my phone, and there was a text from Sam saying, ‘Hey family I’ve finally arrived. It’s good to be home in Cougar nation.’ I just started crying and Vili started crying.”
It wasn’t long before the phone began buzzing with family excitement.
“Then all of a sudden my other son V.J’s text came in, Whitley’s text came in, and then Breiden’s text came in saying, ‘I miss you bro’ because Breiden and Sam lived together in Texas,” said Vili. “It really brought my family together.”
Sam would soon interview with BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. Back in Texas, Sam’s parents waited for a conclusion with nervous fervor hoping their son’s intuition was correct.
“He didn’t tell us too much because I think he wanted to make sure it was going to happen for all the right reasons,” said Linda. “That Sam being there wasn’t about recruiting Breiden. It was about him and getting a position or a job, so he wanted to make sure first and take a chance on going down and make sure everything would work out fine before letting us know more about what was going on.”
The faith to follow his heart soon bore the fruit of good news. Sam would join BYU’s staff as a volunteer Defensive Administrative Assistant, where he’ll help coach linebackers. The welcomed news brought tears to his mother's eyes, but she wasn’t the only one. Sam’s father Vili, the former University of Hawai’i mascot known as “Vili the Warrior” who once pulled a wrestling move on an opposing team’s mascot, held no reservations about shedding tears of gratitude.
“Man, I was so happy for my son and I was crying,” said Vili now happy with laughter. “Sam called me and he was so excited. He said, “Dad I love it over here, and I love you guys but I don’t miss anything over there.”
“It’s such a blessing for us but we weren’t really sure what was going on, but my husband said, ‘Calm down now and sit down. I have to show you something,’” Linda said as old emotions began to swell up in remembrance. “He showed me a text and then I knew it was for real. I was a surreal moment for me and I said, ‘Okay, it’s for real now. He’s on the staff.’ It was such a blessing for the family. ”
Over spring camp, Sam Fehoko dove right in to everything that is BYU football.
“You know Sam said, and, yes, he said he would always be a Red Raider at heart, that he’s never seen anything like this before, whether it was as a player or as a coach,” Linda Fehoko said. “For him to feel like that instantaneously about BYU says a lot about BYU.
“For him to be a die-hard Red Raider to say, ‘I want to be a part of this for the rest of my life. I want all my kids to be BYU Cougars and I value this.’ Like I said that shows there’s something special going on.”
Fully immersed in all things BYU, Sam Fehoko is now beginning to understand why BYU is unique and special place.
“When we talked to him about two or three weeks ago, we had him on speaker,” recalled Linda. “The first thing he said was, ‘He never felt like this before.’ He had been coaching up at Texas Tech for three years being on the staff as a G.A. He said the feeling at BYU was so amazing. He said it was such an amazing feeling to be there. He just said from the players, to the coaching staff, and how it just felt right that he’s there in that environment.”
With a new and profound understanding of what makes his church college and the staff there so special, Sam Fehoko has become fully converted to the Cougar cause.
“You know Sam was born and raised in the church,” said Linda. “Putting football aside it’s a little bit different because of the brotherhood, the values, and morality, and the spiritual side that’s there. Sam said, ‘When I have children they’re all going to be Cougars.’ You know, me and Vili are like, ‘Wow!’ “Now at this time in his life it’s refreshing to know that he feel this way early in his career. He wants to be there for as long as he can.”
While Sam Fehoko sees clearly his personal path, younger brother Breiden Fehoko, who is transferring from Texas Tech, is still in the process of finding his. Years ago, Breiden came to Lubbock because older brothers Sam and V.J, who in his senior year transferred from Utah, were there.
“Yes, yes, it was because of Sam, V.J, and Mike Smith (Texas Tech defensive coordinator/ linebacker coach) were there,” Linda said. “The brothers were all here, and this time when Breiden does make his final decision he wants to make sure that it’s the right decision.
Being close to his brothers Sam and V.J, the pull to Texas Tech in order to stay close to family makes sense. Now that Breiden Fehoko is leaving Texas Tech and entering into the recruiting arena all over again, he wants to get it right without any outside persuasions.
“He just wants to make sure his final decision is for the right reasons and that’s for his future,” Linda said. “We’re not pushing him and if he asks us for our help we’ll give him our council. I think he’s looking for a lot of things and hopefully he’ll get those questions answered.
“If he decides to take a trip out to BYU, or other places, it’s going to be his choice. He knows in his heart what he’s looking for and what he wants to do. I think the peace of mind for Breiden is that his brother Sam got hired on at BYU because of his abilities and not because of him. That makes Breiden feel really good, because he looks up to his brother Sam.”
While Sam Fehoko has found his home and Breiden is still searching for his, looking back at Lubbock, Texas there were no regrets despite things not working out as hoped.
“Hind sight is always 20/20,” Linda said. “I don’t think the boys have any regrets coming out to Texas Tech. They just look at it like their mission is done here and now it’s time to move on. With Sam I think he felt it in his heart, and I think he felt like it was time to move on. I’m just happy he found his new home with Kalani at BYU.”