Ofa Mohetau Interview

I called Ofa Mohetau this morning to get his approval for a national press release TBS sent out this morning about his exclusive comments Friday (to Zionslion) confirming "BYU is the place for me."

The press release (without the Zionslion, Gman and CougarBooster byline) was sent to the Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News and Provo Daily Herald.

I read the entire press release to Ofa, with clarifying comments along the way. He said "it sounds good" and it was okay to distribute. I told him I had to get his approval because he would probably hear from news media and rival coaches to confirm his comments when they are published.

We talked about a wide variety of topics, football and non-football related.

He said he found the recruiting frenzy around him "crazy," but his family told him it would be a positive learning experience for him. The Mohetau's do not have Internet access in their home so he had not heard, read or seen anything about Zionslion's excellent article and insights last night.

The $64,000 question all BYU inquiring minds want to know was whether Ofa would verbally commit to BYU coaches soon or before his recruiting trip to Provo on January 15-16?

"I might commit earlier. We'll see. But right now I want to wait until I complete my trips."

Don't misinterpret those words as someone who says BYU on one hand, but may seriously consider another school later. Though anything can happen in the winner-take-all recruiting sweepstakes, right now Ofa is a very firm BYU non-commit. This is a guileless, straightforward young man who is simply interested in new learning experiences.

TBS readers should know the things most important to him in this decision can ONLY be found in their entirety at BYU. And Ofa knows it. He knows he'll be playing with a lot of other great like-minded Polynesian athletes; living in an unparalleled church and educational environment; and working with coaches he feels a close spiritual affinity with.

The one area I was pleasantly surprised at was Ofa's commitment to serving a mission and education. His passionate, mature and level-headed thoughts and thinking about the importance of a complete education was atypical of many Polynesian athletes.

Without repeating his comments (see press release in "football articles" section of website), he did say: "I WILL get my degree. Anything can happen and I want to make sure I have something to fall back on, like having my own business."

He sees himself as a role model of sorts and is determined to be a good example for other great Polynesian athletes in terms of having balanced priorities in education, football and spiritual development.

It was obvious speaking with Ofa that he has grown up and adapted the values of wise parents and family who have emphasized the importance of his religious beliefs and education. The thoughts of most young men his age and talent often dwell on future NFL dreams and its accompanying financial rewards. Ofa clearly has contingency plans in mind. "Yes sir. I want to help my family."

He was particularly buoyed when we talked about BYU coach Steve Kaufusi. "I trust Steve a lot."

I relayed to him recent comments by sophomore defensive lineman Manaia Brown about Kaufusi (see Manaia Brown Chronicles 2). "I feel the same way with Steve. You know he really cares."

When he learned Manaia was also in Euless ("just down the road from his house") visiting with his brother Leo for the Christmas holidays, he was interested in talking and spending some time with him.

"I'd like to meet and hang out with him. We'll probably see each other anyway in the next couple of days." He was particularly interested in Manaia's experiences in his transition from Nebraska to BYU and the positive impact it's already had on him.

An obvious soft spot was reserved in his jokingly challenging comments about his younger brother, Pasa, who is following in his footsteps as a standout football player. "He's my best friend."

I didn't ask his thoughts about his parents and other immediate family members. The interview would have lasted an hour longer.

For now, Ofa has his sights focused on getting through the recruiting process and becoming the best BYU football player, missionary and student he possibly can.

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