Tupou Surprised by BYU Visit

With over three weeks to go until signing day, only one recruit of note remains on the wanted list for BYU: Christian Tupou. The defensive lineman from Sacramento, California's Grant High School recently returned from his official recruiting trip to BYU. Prior to the visit, Tupou knew little about the school, but now, he has newfound appreciation that will complicates his recruiting decision.

Christian Tupou was the only recruit to leave his official visit to BYU this weekend without committing to the Cougars. Although he did not pull the trigger while in Provo, the 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive end was thoroughly impressed with his visit and experiences at BYU.

"Oh it was cool out there man," said Tupou. "I didn't have one host; I had a few hosts. Matangi [Tonga] and his brother were my hosts, and we got away from the school and stuff and just kicked it with everybody and they were all Tongans. Matangi was my host but because he's brothers with Manase [Tonga] they always hang out together and with everyone else. It was like I had a lot of hosts. There were like three or four of us that were recruits that were Tongan. We all just bonded really quick with Matangi and all them. It was cool, man, and it was a fun trip. Probably the funnest trip I've had yet."

Tupou flew into Utah on Friday where he met up with Coach Doman and Kaufusi who took him to get some good ole fashion Tongan food.

"I got in at noon on Friday," said Tupou. "I met up with Coach Doman and Coach Kaufusi was there. We went to this place called Moti. It's a Tongan place up in Salt Lake. We just kicked back, ate, and talked and then rolled up to the school."

Later that evening, Tupou was greeted by his host and many other Polynesian players from the team and taken to out to go watch BYU's men's volleyball team dismantle the UCLA Bruins in front of a full house.

"Oh man, that volleyball game was crazy," Tupou said. "I didn't know there was that much hype for a little volleyball game. I was tripping because it was as hyped up as a football game. The place was packed and it was crazy, man. They were telling me that BYU was ranked 2nd in the nation."

Tupou hung out with the Tonga bothers and Vic So'oto as well as recruits Manaaki Vaitai, David Angilau, and Devin Mahina.

"There was a Tongan kid named David from Colorado and Manaaki Vaitai," said Tupou. "Those kats are cool man and it was like we were friends for a long time. We just hung out and it was cool man. When I was listening to everyone talk it was like they already knew each other, and then David was in [the Tonga's] ward back in the Bay Area so they were heck of close. It was just cool because everyone seemed like they were already really close."

Tupou even ran into some non-Polynesian BYU football players who spoke Tongan.

"There were a lot of Palangis [Caucasians] that spoke Tongan out there," said Tupou. "I was tripping out man."

Although it was cold outside with temperatures dropping well below freezing, Tupou never once mentioned how cold it was while on his trip. He gave glowing reports about the players, recruits, and coaches with whom he spent time.

"Coach Mendenhall is real and he's legit," said Tupou. "He's up front and he's not going to just tell you things that you want to hear. He basically is BYU. If you like it, good, but if you don't, well [he] can't change that. He's very upfront and real with you.

"Coach Kaufusi was the one that mainly took me around. It was just mainly him. To me, Coach Kaufusi is like a mentor. He's that kind of person. I look at him as not just a coach but like a mentor and as a wise councilor. He is kind of like a Bishop."

Coach Kaufusi took Tupou and showed him around the football facilities at BYU. Tupou was extremely surprised by what he saw.

"It was a whole new experience for me," chuckled Tupou. "I didn't know the Church put it down like that. It was all up to date. I was like, ‘Hey do you guys ever practice in any kind of cold weather?' And they were like, ‘Nope, we use our indoor practice field.' I was like, ‘Dang that's kind of nice!' It's the biggest, I mean, you could put a dang airplane in that thing. That's how big it was man. That thing is huge!

"I was walking through the Hall of Legends and was looking at everything and was reading up on some things. I found out a few things like how BYU used to be BYA or Brigham Young Academy back in the days. I saw the pictures of the "Y" on the mountain and all the history and all that. I was like, ‘Dang.'"

So what did he think of BYU's facilities?

"It was basically like walking through a church," Tupou said. "Everything looked like a church: the walls, the couch, the carpet, the water fountain and it was cool. Everything was clean and new like at church."

Because of the cold, Tupou never really got a chance to see the campus.

"We just basically did a quick walk so it wasn't like I would have been able to see it like I could have during the spring or summer time, so I don't really have much to say about the campus," said Tupou. "It was just a quick walkthrough."

On Saturday Tupou went out with a few other recruits to ride snowmobiles in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. Like everyone else, Tupou had a great time.

"There was me, Manaaki, David and a Palangi kid from Oregon—I think his name was Mathews," Tupou said. "It was just heck of fun man. I mean, we were racing even when we weren't supposed to and we would go heck of fast and everybody was falling and it was fun, man."

So did anyone hit any trees?

"No, I don't know how anybody can hit a tree snowmobiling over there," chuckled Tupou. "It was a lot of fun. I was the last one to fall off. We were right about to pull up into the entrance and I thought, ‘Man I haven't even done any tricks on this thing yet and so I better try it.' I got that thing up to full speed and turned side ways and did a big long ole skid. I was sliding and sliding and then I stopped and rolled over and that ended my streak right there. We went out for around two hours."

Following their fun in the snow the recruits got cleaned up and ready for dinner.

"We went to a place where they always go before the game," Tupou said of the recruits' trip t Ruby River Steakhouse. "It was a steak place where they go when they stay at the hotel. All the coaches and the recruits and their families went out there and then some Polynesian group came out and played for us."

In describing his trip, Tupou kept coming back to how impressed he was with the number of Polynesians on the team and among the other recruits.

"Hanging with all the boys and the recruits that I was with was one of the highlights," Tupou said. "Everyone was basically committed, so it was like I was being hosted by eight dudes. It was just cool hanging with all of them. Then on top of that chilling with Matangi and all of them and going up to their house where there were all these Poly's and all of these recruits. It was just basically like kicking it with family and reminiscing. We kicked up at Sete's [Aulai] house and he's a cool kat, man. It was just cool hanging with all of them because it was like family up there."

Coming on his trip to Provo really opened Tupou's eyes and helped clear up a lot of misconceptions and concerns he previous had about BYU. Being able to see and learn for himself what BYU was truly like has favorably changed a lot of his perceptions.

"It cleared up a lot," Tupou said. "I really talked about BYU with their players. Talked to their D-line and O-line and they answered all of my questions. Question like, how is their coach really like, how is the school really like. It really helped me a lot from a players view. Walking around and talking with the boys really helped straighten everything up with me."

Sporting a black hat and sun glasses, Tupou was also informed that he would have to cut his long hair.

"Yeah they told me to be prepared to trim it," Tupou chuckled. "I was kind of like, ‘Awww.' You know what I mean."

Tupou still has two more trips to go before making a decision, but at the moment, he could see himself playing for BYU.

"I don't want to push my interest prematurely in any one direction," said Tupou. "I have a trip to Cal this Friday and then Miami next week. After that I'll probably decide on where I want to go about a week or two after that. I just want to look over all my choices and then make my decision."

Having already taken trips to Nebraska and Arizona, Tupou could tell the difference in the atmosphere between those two schools and BYU.

"There is no other school that mixes the Church with everything else," said Tupou. "It was good man."

While on campus, Tupou was briefed about the coaches are looking for players to come in and play right away because several key players are leaving on LDS mission this spring. Coach Kaufusi explained to Tupou that he has the potential to come in and contribute right away.

"They were always talking about how they're always sending out missionaries," Tupou said. "They said how they need people to come in and play right away. That's what Coach Kaufusi told me. Kaufusi told me he needed players that can play right away. It was good, man."

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