Vince Feula & Isaac Thomas: A Tale of Two Tackles

The clock read 4:21 last Thursday afternoon in Long Beach (Calif.) and BYU's No. 1 defensive tackle recruit just got home from school tired and hungry. After summarizing his options on the phone, he said he had to decide within 39 minutes – by 5 p.m. Pacific time – whether to commit to BYU or possibly lose a proffered scholarship offer.

One thousand five hundred miles and two time zones away, BYU head coach Gary Crowton and defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi were preparing for a 7 p.m. (5 p.m. California time) home visit at the exact same moment in Mansfield (Tex.) with a coveted high school defensive tackle recruit and his father – with their cell phones turned off.

The first to commit of the two would receive the final scholarship allocated for a defensive tackle.

Vince Feula, a 6-1, 320 pound All-California JC All-American from Cerritos Junior College (Calif.), then had a hasty decision to make. He has narrowed his final choices to Colorado State, Utah, BYU and Arizona.

Isaac Thomas, a 5-11, 270-pound from Mansfield Summit High School, was First Team All- Conference selection (5A, District 4) in Dallas-Fort Worth region, has narrowed his top choices to North Texas and BYU.

While Vince and his father, Falevi, were involved in the then-unfolding drama from their Long Beach home, Thomas and his father were simply looking forward to meeting the BYU head coach and defensive line coach – totally oblivious to what was transpiring in California.

"Steve (Kaufusi) called me just before they went into that player's home and asked if we had made a decision yet. I told him the phone hadn't stop ringing so I didn't really have enough time to really discuss it with my dad," Feula explained.

"I just told Steve if they get a commitment (from Thomas) they have to do what they have to do and I respect that," he added.

Feula also noted that Arizona head coach Mike Stoops and Utah head coach Urban Meyer had been in their home a day before (Wednesday). "Things went good and they are both good coaches. I guess I was more impressed with Coach Stoops because I had already met Meyer before."

Meanwhile, back in Texas, the Thomas' enjoyed their 45-minute get-to-know-you session with Crowton and Kaufusi. Both father and son were impressed. "The (home) visit was great, but I did not commit. It's a big decision and I'm going to take my time with it," Thomas said.

Thomas admitted the greater appeal of North Texas was that "it's close to home, about 30 minutes away." An only child, Thomas is reluctant to move far from home, noting his parents, Isaac and Mildred, are separated right now, but he remains close to both of them. If anything, the home visit by the BYU coaches "kind of made my decision harder."

He admitted to that he had softly verballed a week earlier to North Texas during his official visit, but wanted to wait until after Crowton's home visit last week to make his final decision.

Instead, four days later, he still had not made up his mind and may now decide by Thursday after the North Texas head coach, Darrell Dickey, completes his home visit.

Asked to list the top three most appealing things about his final two college choices, Thomas said, "North Texas – Closeness, area (location of school) and players on the team I know; BYU – Coaches, facilities and tradition – they play big-time football."

"I have to sit down and really think about it harder so I'll be happy with my decision either way. My parents support me. They want me to go where I'll be happiest," Thomas commented.

Thomas led his defensive line teammates with 53 tackles (9 for losses), 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 19 hurries. He was named First Team All-District. Notably, he was also the Louisiana state high school heavyweight (216-275 pound class) wrestling champion as a junior before the family moved to Texas, only his second year in that sport. His Texas school does not have a wrestling program.

Thomas has met the NCAA Clearing House academic qualifications.

Tim Beck, his Summit head coach, said Thomas had received more than 20 offers from smaller colleges. "Thomas only played here one year. Our defense gave up a 2.81 yards-per-run average and only 178 total yards per game. He was a big part of that. He's very fast and strong. He's an extremely hard worker and plays extremely hard all the time. I can tell you he's one of the most unheralded and underrated players I've seen and that's because of his height. If BYU or North Texas gets him, they're getting a great player," Coach Beck said.

Feula, meanwhile, must add several more classes this spring to be academically eligible for BYU and Colorado State. "With Utah, I'm fine (academics-wise). With Colorado State, they need one or two more classes, just like BYU. That's not a big problem."

Frank Mazzotta, Feula's head coach at Cerritos Junior College, told TBS that "Vince is right up there with the best players we've had here. The Arizona coaches told me if they had had him (Feula) this year, there's not a Pac-10 guy that could have blocked him."

What all these competing college coaches covet is an athlete that recorded 85 tackles and 7 sacks at Cerritos College and registered a 4.9/40 and was one of the strongest players on the entire Arizona squad as a freshman. Moreover, he currently lifts a 460-pound bench press, 730-pound squat, and a 385-pound clean and jerk.

Feula confirmed today that BYU head coach Gary Crowton and defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall will visit with him and his father this evening. "I'm looking forward to it."

Last Thursday afternoon, Feula was, admittedly, of a different mindset. "My mind is all burned out right now. I don't know what to do and which way to go."

Feula confirmed he will also make his final decision this week.

Meanwhile, coaches from North Texas, Colorado State, Utah, Arizona and BYU anxiously await "verbal commitments" that could make and shape their future teams.

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