BYU Offers Big LDS Tongan

Cougar football coaches have not relented in their early recruiting efforts. They were the first to offer a scholarship to a big 6-foot-6, 225-pound athlete from Upland High School in Upland, California.

It is well documented that Brigham Young University has more Polynesian football players on its roster than any Division I college in the country other than the University of Hawaii. With the continued growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the islands of the South Pacific and the steady immigration of Polynesians to the United States from their native lands, it seems likely that BYU will continue to enjoy an abundance of Pacific islanders on its football team.

Last year, BYU started the first ever all Polynesian defensive line with Manaia Brown, Daniel Marquardt and Vince Feula. Rotating and filling in for injuries were T.J. Sitaki, Justin Maddux, Sosiua Sekona among others. In 2006, BYU fans will again see big, fast, strong Polynesians manning the trenches including Russell Tialavea and newcomers Moses Foketi and Matangi Tonga.

True to form, BYU coaches are showing a lot of interest in another big LDS Polynesian in Devin Mahina.

"I run about a 4.8 forty and I think the last time I ran a shuttle it was a 4.0," said Mahina. "I'm benching like 265 and I'm squatting like 385. I've got a 3.0 PGA.

"I've been talking to coach Higgins, he's the receiver's coach, and he came into town and watched one of my basketball games. I think it was the next day or a couple of days later and he said they really liked me and I guess they were talking about offering me a scholarship.

"I haven't really talked to Coach Kaufusi since the [summer] camp, but I got an email from him and he said they were watching my film and he said they were very excited."

BYU coaches reviewed Mahina's junior season football tape and let him know they were very impressed with his athleticism and the development of his game. Cougar coaches have held nothing back in letting Devin know just how serious they are about having him coming to represent his church's school in Provo, Utah. They not only send Devin frequent letters of interest, they also offered him a full ride football scholarship.

"The season went pretty well and we went 10-2," Mahina said. "I played both sides of the ball as a tight end and defensive end. I did pretty good I had about 10 catches for 80 yards and at least 50 tackles and three sacks. I was injured and sprained my ankle. I had a hyper extended elbow and only played 8 games. I had a lot of touchdowns but most of them were called back. I was pretty furious about that.

"I learned a lot and played as a sophomore and so I had a little bit of experience, but when I started playing on both sides of the ball I realized it was a lot tougher, especially varsity. I realized it was a lot faster and it takes a lot of time to study film and more time to prepare against those who I'm going up against.

"Right now my main prospects are BYU and UCLA. BYU has already offered me a full ride and I get a letter from BYU about every day. I don't know, it feels like, ‘Wow, you're actually wanted," and it doesn't seem real. It's something you always wanted to do and that's play football in college and play on Saturdays and be seen by other people. I'm just glad it's happening to me. It's a blessing and it's great. You can't ask for anything better than that."

Mahina is also receiving recruiting interest from USC, Oregon State, UNLV and Washington.

Last year, Devin Mahina came to BYU's summer football camp with his father to showcase his abilities on the field. BYU coaches took notice and give Mahina a few awards for his camp performances.

"I went to their camp as a junior and that kind of put my name on the map," said Mahina. "We were split up by our years and I didn't want to go with the juniors. I wanted to compete with the seniors and just compete with the linebackers and corners and stuff like that. Towards the end of the camp, the tight end coach [former BYU Assistant Coach Mike Empey] evaluated me and I was told I had the best hands out of all of them. I also got best defensive linemen out of my age group."

This year Mahina has been invited to BYU's junior day and summer camp. He is not sure if he will be able to make either of the two camps because both fall on dates where he might be pre-occupied.

"I'm not even sure yet if I'm going to the junior day camp because it's on the same day as this NIKE training camp, and I might be in Tonga during the summer camp," Mahina said.

Mahina comes from a strong LDS home. His family also places a high value on education. He currently maintains a 3.0 PGA at Upland High School. Serving a mission is a big priority which will factor into where he decides to play football in college.

"I'm looking for a place where I can get a good education so in case I get injured I will always have something to fall back onto," Mahina said. "I want to feel like I fit in and feel welcomed and like I'm needed there. I want to go on my mission and I want to go to a place that will accept that like I know BYU does. I would like to go to a place where there are other Polynesians because where I go to school at Upland it's just me and my sister, so nobody knows what a Tongan is, and I always have to explain it to them."

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