Filiaga Commits to BYU; Prepping for ACT Testing

You might think a highly-recruited gridiron athlete whose father, one of the strength and conditioning assistants at BYU, would certainly have the Cougars near or at the top of his list of college choices, right? Wrong!

"I had little intention of committing to BYU, but I did it (took an official recruiting visit) just as a courtesy," says Isley Filiaga, a 6-0, 295-pound defensive tackle from Timpanogos High School (Utah), who is perhaps the strongest prep recruit in the entire country.

He confirmed that after fasting, praying fervently about his decision, he called BYU head coach Gary Crowton and verbally committed Sunday afternoon.

"I was all set to sign with Utah State. I visited the school and felt that the situation they presented to me fit better. Then I got a visit from Coach (Steve) Kaufusi last week and he convinced me to at least take a visit with my teammate, Thor Pili."

Shortly after he accepted the invitation, his teammate canceled his visit. Faced with the prospect of being the only recruit on campus, "Kaufusi told me it might be better to postpone my visit another week since no other players were visiting that weekend, but I wanted to get it over with."

His host was fellow Samoan defensive end, Shaun Nua. Filiaga was given a tour of the campus he is already very familiar with. His father, Tui Filiaga, works as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at BYU.

"This girl was showing me around. She could kind of see I was a little bored, so she suggested we end it early since I already knew where everything was. She suggested we go check out the academic center and talk with the people there," he said.

Academics had been Filiaga's biggest obstacle and the main reason he did not think he could qualify academically for BYU – hence his contingency plan to join his first cousins, Brian and Justin Soi, at Utah State.

"The people at the academic center were well aware of my situation and outlined everything I'd have to do and what they'd help me with while I was there. It was then that it hit me that I could do it. I could qualify and remain academically eligible. That was when I first realistically saw myself signing with and playing for BYU," Filiaga said.

However, the biggest boon of being the only recruit on campus was Filiaga was able to spend a lot more time talking with the coaches, especially head coach Gary Crowton.

"We ended up talking for about an hour and half that night. It was great. Crowton is a great guy and is easy to talk to. He made me feel really good. Toward the end of the conversation, he got real serious and talked to me straight. He told me that if I could work it out, they wanted me to accept a scholarship to play for them. He told me to think about it and give him an answer the following morning (Sunday)."

Filiaga left for bed, but couldn't sleep. He talked early into the morning with his host. "Shaun (who is not LDS) was just telling me of how much of a privilege it was to play for BYU. He said back in Samoa, any player playing for any school is looked upon as a great accomplishment, but playing for BYU or any other D-1 school is just amazing. Shaun just told me to recognize the opportunity I had and to make sure that I took full advantage of it," Filiaga commented.

"We talked until about three in the morning. I asked Shaun about everything and he told me everything. It was great. We became good friends. I went to bed and prayed real hard about what I should do and soon fell asleep after that," he continued.

Filiaga woke up with an answer. "All I could think about was BYU and playing for BYU. I couldn't get it out of my head. It's all I could think about."

Filiaga didn't commit to Crowton right away, telling him he still wanted more time to talk it over with his family. He went to church and fasted all day Sunday. "The feeling that I should go to BYU was even stronger when I went to church and throughout the day. After Church, I called Coach Crowton and told him that I would sign with BYU."

Filiaga was one of the stars of BYU's summer camp last June, seemingly unblockable by other top BYU recruits like Nick Alletto (Colorado) and Terence Brown (South Carolina). Top-rated in their states, both have also committed to BYU. Brown noted the camp, "That Isley guy is a monster. I can't believe how strong he is. He's one of the best guys I've ever seen play."

Meanwhile, Filiaga's feats of strength are exemplary for a high school player. He has lifted 36 reps at 225 pounds – more than many athletes at the annual NFL combine – and 45 reps of 195 pounds. Filiaga has also been timed at 4.9/40 and recorded 87 tackles in only eight games last season.

He credits his father for his weightlifting strength. "I love my dad. Being able to be coached by him is something that I'm excited for."

Filiaga said his father did not force him in BYU's direction. "He left the decision totally up to me. I knew he wanted me at BYU, but he wanted me to do what I felt was best – even if it was playing somewhere else."

He also gave no indication to his family he was going to commit to BYU. "When I told them my decision, they all were a bit surprised, but very happy. I was sort of surprised myself that I committed, but I know it was the right thing to do."

Filiaga selected BYU over Utah, Utah State, Nebraska, Arizona and Boise State, among other schools that recruited him. He said he has definite LDS mission plans and will leave after his first season. "I don't want to redshirt and I hope I won't have to. I want to play and I know that I can help the team," he said.

Filiaga's biggest challenge will be to qualify academically in time to enroll at BYU in the fall. "I've taken the ACT several times and I'm only a couple of points off from qualifying. I've made up a ton of school work and won't even have to take summer school."

He is also enrolled at the Sylvan Learning Center preparing studiously for the next ACT test. "I'll pass it. I know I will because I'm going to work day and night studying for it. I don't want this opportunity to pass me up. I know the opportunity I have is a great one and I fully intend on taking full advantage of it. I'll qualify."

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