A Celebration of Wally Molifua

Over the weekend, the Oceanside, California community came together at Oceanside High School to celebrate the life Wally Molifua. Since playing his last game for BYU in 1973, Molifua devoted a lifetime of service to his beloved hometown.

Family, friends, former teammates and BYU faithful from all around the west came to show support of Wally Molifua, a man whose legacy extends far beyond the annals of BYU football history. Many came even though they had never met the man whose name now stands in the front of a newly renovated multi-million dollar gymnasium.

BYU tight end Vic So'oto and defensive tackle Russell Tialavea, an Oceanside alumnus, drove down from Provo, Utah to be in attendance. BYU's Assistant Head Football Coach Lance Reynolds scrapped a recruiting trip to pay homage to his former teammate. Cougar wide receiver commit Ryan Kessman and his family drove down from Hemet, California for the luau that followed the dedication ceremony.

"Man, was it something different or what!" said an excited Kessman. "It was so awesome and entertaining. Not one second of it was boring or anything, it was so awesome.

"When we got there, big Vic So'oto took us around and showed us everything. Then we ended up eating and watching a slide show and talking some more. He showed us the gymnasium and I met a few people. I went and bid on a signed Clinton Portis jersey which was pretty cool. I think I won but we won't find out until sometime this week."

After being shown the Wally Molifua Gymnasium, Kessman and his family were treated to a traditional Polynesian show with dancers in full dress.

"We had the entertainment from 6:00 to about 8:00 I think," said Kessman. "They did the traditional dancing and all kids of stuff. It was just awesome and I want to learn how to do that. I really do, I was thinking the whole time I was watching that I really want to learn how to do that."

Little did the future BYU receiver know that he will be learning one of the dances that were performed at the luau. Last season the Cougars performed a Maori Haka at the beginning of every game. Kessman and the rest of the recruiting class of 2007 will learn the haka when they arrive on campus a year from August.

"It's going to be cool," said Kessman of the opportunity to participate in the new BYU tradition. "It is going to be so awesome!"

Also in attendance for the festivities was California first team all-state underclassman, nephew and namesake of Wally Molifua, Wally So'oto.

"The dancers where really good," said the younger So'oto. "We had dancers from Carlsbad, El Camino, Oceanside and another dance group come up from San Diego and L.A. It was really good.

"I have some big shoes to fill. Uncle Wally is someone that I was named after and with all the things he did I have to make sure that I follow his example."

The luau featured traditional Polynesian food that the Kessman family tried for the first time. Like the entertainment, the food did not disappoint either.

"That was some of the best food I've ever had," Kessman said. "I loved it. It was really good. It was awesome, and I want to go to another one soon. It was just so much fun, everything about it."

Wally So'oto agrees with Kessman's assessment of the day's events.

"It was really good and really organized," said Wally So'oto. "I thought it wasn't going to be that big but it turned out to be a big thing where a lot of people came. I was happy to be a part of it."

One of the more well-known attendees was the innovator of the west coast offense and College Hall of Fame inductee LaVell Edwards. The 28-year BYU head coach was there for a brief time during the morning dedication. The So'oto family spent some quality time with Edwards. The senior Vic So'oto picked the legendary coach up from the airport and drove him to the dedication. Wally So'oto got a chance to speak with Edwards for a little while.

"He's a funny guy," chuckled So'oto. "I didn't get to eat breakfast with him but my dad did and he said he ate a lot. He said he also talks a lot.

"I talked to him about football and he asked me where I was going to school. I told him I was going to Carlsbad and he said that was great. It was just really good talking to him. At first it hit me because I knew who I was talking to, but then I just realized he's just a regular guy. He's really funny and has a lot of jokes."

George Molifua, a nephew of Wally Molifua and a fullback for the University of Utah, spoke at his uncle's dedication. Knowing that Edwards was in attendance, George took time to have some fun with the rivalry.

"George got up and said that President Hinckley was from the University of Utah," said Wally So'oto, "but then LaVell got up and said that he went to the University of Utah but that he had repented of it. It was kind of funny."

During his talk at the dedication, Edwards pointed out another interesting bit of history about some of the players he recruited while a head coach at BYU.

"Another joke LaVell said was that he recruited Junior Seau, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Joe Salavea and my uncle Wally" said Wally So'oto. "My uncle Wally was the only one that committed to play for BYU. LaVell said, ‘Now look; out of all four of those guys, Wally Molifua is the only one with his name on a building.'"

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