Cougars Get Big Time Texas O-Line Commit

Today was a solid day of football no matter how you slice it. Thousands of fans got a pre-Easter treat in LaVell Edwards Stadium. The offense and defense both got to shine in the 33rd annual Blue-White game. Even BYU coaches got some great news as several new recruits committed to play for the Cougars.

BYU fans will be excited to know that Coach Mendenhall and his staff landed one of the top O-line prospects from the state of Texas. Manaaki Vaitai, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound Trinity High School OT/DT, orally committed to Bronco Mendenhall today.

"The reason I commited is when I showed up yesterday I just walked in and was able to sit in the back of the classroom during the offensive line meeting and I just felt welcomed," said Vaitai. "It just felt cool and I liked it. The coaches are cool and their straight up and don't lie to you.

"I'm so excited, I walked into the football facility and I could feel the Spirit, and being a member of the Church I think that's good. Because I'm LDS, I've always wanted to serve a mission, and I think BYU is the only school that will let me go and then come back and play. Whereas, I'm afraid that other schools might tell me I can come and play and go on a mission but then when I get there they might not let me go, so I'm going to be proud to wear the blue and white jersey of BYU and be a Cougar."

Although he is finishing his junior year of high school, Vaitai is already receiving big time attention from some major programs across the country including Florida, Miami, the University of Texas among many others.

"The first school that offered me was Houston," said Vaitai. "I haven't spoken to them and they just offered me right after our state game. Colorado State has offered me and then last Thursday Baylor offered me. The University of Texas is trying to get me to come out to watch their spring practice but I couldn't make it out because I had to stay home for church.

"Florida came up to my school three months ago and they were talking to me about how it would be fine for me to go on my mission and how there is a church building just down the street from campus. Texas A&M and Indiana are recruiting me and Indiana just started sending me a lot of stuff, and then just lately the U of U has been trying to write me and send me letters because they've been trying to talk to me but I'm not really interested. I don't know how they knew I was here [Texas]. Nobody even knew I was down here."

Vaitai was only able to visit briefly with Coach Mendenhall yesterday, but he spent more time with his future coach today. Coach Mendenhall told Vaitai that the BYU staff watched highlight footage of Vaitai's junior season. After the fourth play of the highlight DVD, Coach Mendenhall said he had seen enough and wanted Vaitai at BYU.

"It feels good and I feel welcomed," said Vaitai. "Coach Mendenhall was in his office and he just said all he needed to see was those first four plays and stood up and walked out. The rest of the coaching staff stayed and watch the rest of the tape.

"Coach Mendenhall is the one that offered me the scholarship. Last night I stayed out in the city and woke up around 6:00 in the morning to catch a meeting with him and my dad at around 8:00 this morning. We sat down with Coach Grimes and the offensive coordinator and he was telling me the four criteria's he requires from each player in order to be a part of this team and this family. He said he had been calling people back at home to get some good recommendations from them."

The calls home that Vaitai referred to were calls from the coaching staff to Vaitai's local church leaders. It is common practice for Cougar coaches to check with a prospect's local clergy to make sure that the athlete will be a good fit for the moral climate at BYU. Vaitai is pleased to come to a school where many of his coaches are all spiritual men.

"My dad is a strong priesthood holder," said Vaitai. "I think being around all these good people here at BYU will be just like being at home."

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