BYU Moves to No. 1 in Vic So'oto's Latest Listing

No secret to major college football recruiters, the proverbial cat was let out of the bag last week when a Samoan LDS prospect that BYU is aggressively pursuing was named the "No. 1 tight end in the west" and the 41st overall recruit in the west's top "Hot 100" at any position by <b></b>.

"Big Vic" So'oto's surprise reaction to his son's (Vic So'oto) latest national recognition was "Wow."

Father and son attended the BYU summer camp several weeks ago. "I think it's the best one (campus) I've seen so far and I really made a good connection with the coaches. It's great. I liked it a lot," the younger So'oto recalled.

"I didn't think of BYU as one of my top choices, but they are now," the younger So'oto said. "I would say they are No. 1 on my list. I'm just glad to meet all the coaches because letters don't really do anything. The coaches were very sincere and very honest."

His father concurred. "They're great coaches. I think BYU really moved up to the No. 1 spot right now. Mike Empey was there, Lance Reynolds was there and another guy was there. Every station that Vic went to they were right on him, so that was really neat. They showed they were really interested in him."

Vitale So'oto, a 6-4, 220 pound tight end/linebacker star from Carlsbad High School in San Diego, earned MVP honors at the Cougar camp. He is being recruited to play at either position in college. Carlsbad head coach Bob McAllister called him the "best sophomore the program has ever had" early last year.

McAllister added he thought So'oto's best college prospects were at tight end. "He needs to put on some weight, but he has the body to do it. Vic has a great work ethic and I believe he can be a prototype tight end in college."

Despite playing most of his junior season with a nagging sprained ankle, So'oto still managed 18 catches for more than 400 yards and two touchdowns. On defense, he recorded 80 tackles and three forced fumbles. He noted, however, that BYU coaches were looking for him to play tight end, adding his BYU experiences "were far beyond" his expectations.

"I had no idea BYU was like that. The camp itself was OK. I thought it was all right. I liked it (Provo) a lot, except for the weather. I had to adjust to it (altitude) the first couple of days, but I would say my overall experience was on top. I was just surprised at how much they were interested (in me) and all the stuff the school has to offer," So'oto added.

"I got to know their (BYU) coaching staff really well. I would be happy to play either side of the ball over there. I need to narrow down my options first."

Like son, like father. "Big Vic" said the visit helped put things into perspective and also helped resolve some personal concerns. "We loved it. Before we got to the camp, he and I were looking at UCLA, San Diego State or USC, those three schools right around here close to the house."

Their Provo visit significantly expanded their horizon of possibilities and left them with a new appreciation and understanding of their LDS Church's flagship university. "You don't really get a feel for the coaches (through recruiting letters), but I really liked it there. I got a good feel of how everything works. I thought it was good, high standards. It's my mom's dream school for me to go there," the son said.

The other apparent holdout, Vic's father, now concurs with his son's assessment of the intangible benefits, values and high standards the BYU environment and coaches would provide for his son. "To me, that's one thing I really like as a member of the Church. The values and morals we distill in our kids at home. For them to go to college and have those same things there, it's really neat."

In a recent interview with the website, So'oto said he thinks the possibility of taking his Mormon mission out of high school might be making other schools hesitate. "I don't even know if I'm going to go on my mission out of high school. My mom wants me to. My dad and I don't. We're definitely debating it. Right now, the schools that have offered me are fine with it."

Previously, USC and UCLA had the hometown lead in his recruiting. "I kind of want to stay close to home so my parents don't have to drive 11 hours just to see me play. USC and UCLA are pretty close to home and I think USC lets you go on your mission," So'oto told before his BYU summer camp experience.

So'oto added, "I think the (USC) coaches are great. I met Norm Chow down there. The funny thing was that it was on Sunday, and he said, "Aren't you missing your priesthood quorum?" I told him it wasn't my fault because he set it up on Sunday," So'oto chuckled. "I like their coaches a lot."

"I'm getting attention from Oklahoma, USC, UCLA, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, BYU, Arizona, Arizona State, Florida State, Kansas, Washington, Washington State, Cal and Stanford. That's it off the top of my head."

At the BYU camp, So'oto was part of a tight end group mentored by Mike Empey, BYU's tight end coach and recruiting coordinator. Empey made an impression as a person and coach. "I thought he (Empey) was cool. I thought we made a connection and he's a real laid back coach. He's funny. He's real straight forward and told me what they expect and stuff," said So'oto.

BYU offered So'oto a scholarship several months ago and closely observed him at a NIKE football camp. Now having attended BYU's summer camp, coaches are still very impressed with this young athlete.

"Mike (Empey) really likes Vic. Vic did his shuttle in 4.34 and he (Empey) was just shocked because this was like the third day after the morning practice and was during the afternoon practice. Mike told me he couldn't believe a kid, after his third day, can come out and do that good. After the third day, the kids are sore and usually the numbers aren't that high. They (forty and shuttle times) are low because your body is already sore. Vic had a groin injury and he was still able to do that good of a job. Mike said he really loves his competitiveness and said he's really a down-to-earth kind of kid," said "Big" Vic.

So'oto carries a 3.2 core GPA and said he wanted to major in Sports Medicine.

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