BYU in the Mix for top JC Defender

After losing their entire starting defensive line, Cougar coaches filled the holes with two of the top high school D-linemen in California. The two prep stars leave on LDS missions after the 2006 season, however, so BYU will need to reload once more. A JC DE from Arizona may fill in nicely.

Family connections between recruits and college coaches are not unusual, but the nature of the relationship between defensive end recruit William Tukuafu and BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi is a little out of the ordinary. In most cases, the recruit is the son or nephew of the coach. For Tukuafu and Kaufusi, however, the generational relationship is flipped. The 22-year old Tukuafu is an uncle to the father of five Kaufusi.

"His mom in my sister," chuckled Tukuafu. "My dad's first wife had 12 kids and one of the kids was Steve's mom, and then my dad's first wife passed away. He then married my mom and then had four more kids. That's how I was born his uncle I guess.

"Steve is one of the one's who has been recruiting me. He said they need me over there and stuff like that, but you know with all family stuff aside you have to remember there is a serious business side as well."

Although Tukuafu is a typical fun-loving Tongan kid, he does take his God-given talents very seriously, which is why he is being so careful with his choice of college. After a tallying 10 ½ sacks as a freshman at Scottsdale Community College, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Tukuafu has many schools to choose from.

"I have offers from Arizona State, Arizona, BYU, Utah, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Cal, USC, Michigan State and some smaller schools like Utah State, Nevada-Reno and some other Mountain West teams. It is a blessing for me, you know."

Prior to his year at Scottsdale and an LDS mission to Kingston, Jamaica, Tukuafu played his prep football at East High School with best friend, current BYU tailback Fui Vakapuna.

"I played at East High School," said Tukuafu. "I signed over at BYU out of high school. Coach Reynolds and Schmidt recruited me out of high school to BYU. Fui is my best friend. We've been best friends ever since we were little, going through elementary, junior high and high school together.

"He just lived right around the corner from me. We both signed at BYU right out of high school and then I went on a mission. When I came back, I was a quarter credit short for the NCAA Clearing House. I didn't want to go to Dixie or Snow and my brother lived out here in Arizona, so I moved out here and went to Scottsdale for one year."

Tukuafu intends to redshirt this year while finishing his associate's degree at Mesa Community College. He wants to have three years to play Division I football.

Last weekend, Tukuafu took an official visit to BYU, where he was hosted by Vakapuna. The pair still talk on the phone frequently. Earlier this month, they even took turns visiting each other's homes in Utah and Arizona.

"[Fui] puts in his little two cents about BYU when he can," said Tukuafu. "We always made our little deal that we would one day play with each other and stuff like that, but after all the joking is said and done he always expressed to me that he wants me to come and play with him. At the same time he says that I have to do what I have to do."

Tukuafu's trip to BYU was his second official recruiting trip to Provo. He took his first official trip when he was in high school. Although, he was already familiar with the campus, he did notice a change in the attitude and focus of the football program.

"It's a little different now than it was when I went up there out of high school," said Tukuafu. "Coming from a church point of view, it's more spiritual now. They focus more on doing things with the Spirit now than they did in the past. They are looking at the types of athletes that can come in and contribute off the field as well as on the field. They're looking more at character along with an athlete's playing abilities than before."

The heightened emphasis on spirituality is very appealing to Tukuafu. He feels that his experiences as a missionary made him more aware of the school's moral environment.

"A mission helps you look beyond just one or two years but more long term," said Tukuafu. "All of these other public schools are pretty much the same. BYU is a football school and has the great social aspects. At the same time you have other schools that are recruiting like USC, ASU and Oregon that are at the top of the list in the category of football, but where are they with the social quality or spiritual aspects of life? They don't compare to BYU, so those are things that I have to take into consideration as I try to make this decision."

Despite all the good that he sees at BYU, Tukuafu is still torn between what he perceives as two potentially conflicting desires. He knows BYU is his church school, and he wants to be a part of all that BYU has to offer, but he also wants to attend a high profile school where he will have increased national exposure. Tukuafu dreams of playing in the NFL, and he feels that he would have a better chance of living that dream if he went to a big conference school.

"There are chances to go to the NFL from BYU, but I would have to work a lot harder with the conference that they're," said Tukuafu. "The [Mountain West Conference] is not as competitive as the Pac-10, which most people know of."

Tukuafu planned a trip to Oregon, and he may visit Utah and Washington State. He hopes to finish his trips and make a decision by the end of the summer.

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