The Waiting Game

Aveni Leung-Wai had to put in two years at a junior college before getting the chance to play at BYU. Now its the Cougars turn to sit tight while Leung-Wai embarks on an LDS mission. When the talented linebacker finally suits up in BYU blue, four years will have passed since he left his home in Aiea, Hawaii.

It takes more than exceptional athletic ability to play Division I football. As BYU commit Aveni Leung-Wai found out, it also takes effort in the classroom. The Aiea High School linebacker drew the attention of several strong college football programs with his on-field exploits. Unfortunately, he also drove those college suitors away with his poor academic performance.

"I had a few schools recruiting me out of high school," Leung-Wai said. "The strongest school that recruited me the most was the University of Oregon. The coaches from the University of Hawaii came down and talked to me the week of the East-West All-Star game, but I guess they weren't really interested. I think it was because of my grades that a lot of schools kind of backed off.

"The University of Washington was also recruiting me and I was getting letters from all over. I had shoe boxes full of letters. I was getting letters from Oregon State, Oregon, BYU, Utah, Colorado, Boise State and then I got a lot from D-II schools."

After failing to qualify for D-I ball, Leung-Wai went to Grossmont College in southern California. Things did not immediately improve at the junior college level, however. Injuries caused him to miss half of his freshman season.

"I played three games with what they call a healing fracture," Leung-Wai said. "I played those three games, and then I came back and later played for two games. Then on the sixth game I broke my ankle, and I was done."

During the five games that he played with a fractured leg, Leung-Wai still managed to earn player of the week honors. He can only wonder what accolades he would have received if he had been fully healthy for the entire season.

"I'm 100 percent now, and I feel good," said Leung-Wai. "I'm ready to go, and I can't wait to play at full strength. I have a lot of intensity and like to roam around a lot. I love the game, so I'm a very passionate player when I play. If I miss a tackle, I get pretty upset, but I always try to come back the next play to make up for any mistake I might have made. I try my best to go 100 percent all the time. I play every play like it's my last one every single time."

So what are people going to see from a fully healthy Leung-Wai roaming the field?

"I hope people will see some big hits and some tackles for losses," said Leung-Wai. "I'm going to try and make some big plays to help people to know what it feels like to be apart of a tackle for a loss."

Despite only playing five games last year, Leung-Wai must have done enough to impress BYU's coaching staff because the Cougars offered him a scholarship. Leung-Wai did not take long to accept the offer.

"Coach Reynolds is the coach that recruited me to BYU," said Leung-Wai. "He really cares about you as a person. He's the type of coach that cares about his players and not because they can help win them games, but because he's a genuine good person who wants you to be successful."

Leung-Wai is not the only Grossmont player headed to BYU. The Cougars also received a verbal commitment from defensive tackle Magnum Mauga, a strong Polynesian lineman with a nasty streak.

"He's a beast!" said Leung-Wai of Mauga. "He's really strong and quick and you don't want to get in his way when he's running. On the field he takes every thing very seriously, and he's mean. He's a killer.

"We talk about our trips, and we were both really excited about BYU. He was really excited he got to go up there. He's not LDS, but he likes it. When he was up there and I was back home in Hawaii, he said, ‘Man, it's so beautiful up there and the players are a lot different than at other places or like the guys we play with; they're all close and a team and they're all more mature.' I think BYU is getting a very good player."

Leung-Wai can thank Mauga for his success at the linebacker spot.

"He pretty much keeps the offensive linemen in front of me and allows me to go my job and get all the big tackles," said Leung-Wai of Mauga. "He does his job and more and pretty much clears the way. He's also really strong."

Mauga and Leung-Wai will probably never play together because Leung-Wai will not head directly to BYU from Grossmont. Instead, he is going to pursue a goal he had since childhood.

"I plan on serving a mission after this season," said Leung-Wai. "I'll probably leave in early January. That's when I plan on going out and growing up I've always planned on going on a mission. My parents raised me really well and taught me to keep my head on straight. They taught me to focus on things that will help me throughout my life.

"I turn in my papers in October. I want to go in the South Pacific like, to Tonga or Samoa. That would be great!"

Following a two-year hiatus from football, Leung-Wai will return to BYU to play outside linebacker. He will bring impressive physical abilities to the Cougar defense. Leung-Wai weighs 225 pounds, runs a 4.6 forty, bench presses the 225-pound bar 21 times, and squats 405.

BYU is not the only school interested in Leung-Wai. His coaches are fielding calls from several interested schools. Cougar fans have no need to worry because Leung-Wai is first in his commitment.

"The University of Utah has recruited me," said Leung-Wai. "My coaches are saying a lot of schools are coming to look at me now, but I'm BYU all the way, so it doesn't matter if Utah or any other school offers me. I bleed blue."

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