"In regards to Matangi Tonga, we recruited him early on all the way back in May," said Coach Mendenhall. "He had a great experience on his recruiting visit. His parents came on a visit also and were very supportive. They got a chance to see us play, and his brother is here, and we had as many possible connections with Matangi as possible, and fortunately, with great opportunities elsewhere, he chose BYU. He's a terrific young man and an outstanding football player."
Because of his athleticism and the graduation of defensive lineman, Tonga will have the chance to come in and compete for playing time early.
"The greatest areas of need on our football team are in the secondary and the defensive line," said Coach Mendenhall. "Even though the players are young in some cases the junior college players were targeted specifically to come in and play immediately. That doesn't rule out the chance for the high school players because the need is so great at those positions."
Coach Mendenhall can breathe a little easier knowing he can fill part of his defensive need with one of the top players in the state of California.
"Right now I'm glad that they are coming and that they have chosen BYU," said Mendenhall with a smile.
The BYU assistant coach that recruited Matangi Tonga was Brandon Doman, BYU's quarterback coach. Doman fought long and hard and did all that he could to persuade Tonga that BYU was the place for him. In the end Doman beat out Oregon coaches for Tonga's services.
"Coach Mendenhall made a very interesting point," said Coach Tidwell. "I think it came down to when he went on his home visit. He just said that coach Doman outworked the other coaches. He outworked the guys that were recruiting Matangi with mail, text messaging and phone calls. Coach Doman just did a fantastic job recruiting Matangi, and when he came on his recruiting trip on campus all the Polynesian coaches and Coach Mendenhall did a great job. I think Ray Feinga did a good job as a host and his brother is here and all these things just added up."
Coach Doman appreciates his boss's recognition for his hard work.
"I'm grateful for Coach Mendenhall recognizing our hard work and what we've been through because, man, it's grueling, and I'm looking forward to finishing up with these questions so I can get home to my family," chuckled Doman. "If I were doing it for somebody else, I don't know if I would enjoy the recruiting part of it, but for me to go out and find guys to come [to BYU], I can do it. My wife can support me in that because we're going out and finding a different kind of young man and bringing him into a special place, and to be able to do that now I can go out on the road and do that and be passionate about it and work harder than the other guys."
Along with Doman's efforts, there was a little aeronautical intervention that helped Tonga him to make his decision. During two planned recruiting trip to Oregon, Tonga was unable to board his plane. He mentioned that he felt this was a sign that maybe it was just not meant to be.
"Yeah well, we will take it and won't deny it," chuckled Tidwell.
Coach Doman is excited that he was able to sign all of the kids he was responsible for recruiting to BYU. He can now sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labors.
"It's awesome," said Coach Doman. "My last recruit was Matangi [Tonga] and I had six recruits in my areas. I had Mike Hague, Braden Hansenp; I had Tom Sorensen; I had Moses Foketi, Matangi Tonga and then obviously my cousin [Sam Doman]. There were others I had along the way but those were the six we were trying to get in my areas and all of them had committed, and we were just waiting for [Matangi] to commit, and thank goodness he's coming."
So what was it that helped him persuade Tonga to BYU?
"I just believed in the kid, and he's a real special kid," said Doman. "I'm not that good looking and I don't sound that good when I talk but he's a good friend of mine and he's respectful. I got to know his family and got to know his parents and if you really want to know why he's here you gotta go ask his mom and dad because they are very well grounded people. Don't kid yourself now, there's other recruits just like him and he's no different than other kids that could have gone elsewhere, and that's not a knock on any of the recruits because they're all phenomenal, but in the end he knew where his heart was.
"Man, I'm just grateful he followed it because he may not have followed his heart and could have gone elsewhere, but with him on the defensive line with the other recruits that we have puts us right up there with the rest of the teams in the country, which is awesome."