Vaitai Ready to Sign his LOI

Despite a very successful senior year that drew attention from BCS conference programs, Manaaki Vaitai's commitment to BYU has not wavered since chosing the Cougars last spring. If anything, Vaitai's determination to play for the boys in blue was strengthened by their outstanding 2006 season. caught up with the Vaitai to discuss his plans for immediate and distant future.

Around this time of the year fans start to evaluate recruits through debate, highlight films, and even a little regional bias. Fans take that information and rank their team's recruiting class according to who they think is most promising. Judging by the debate (or lack thereof) surrounding Manaaki Vaitai, he may be one of the more overlooked Cougar commits expected to sign a letter of intent early next month.

Vaitai plays in the highest division in Texas, which is always one of the top two states in the union in the production of D-I football talent. So how did Vaitai do playing against the best high school talent in the nation?

"I was first team all-district, first team all-Area and first-team all-state," answered Vaitai. "So, I guess I did pretty good this year."

Indeed, Vaitai is set to be one of the more accomplished high school linemen to sign with the Cougars, and that is saying something with all of the outstanding trench warriors to go through Provo over the years. Due to his early commitment to BYU coaches, Vaitai did not receive recruiting hype that he otherwise would have if he had waited to make his decision.

"I'm committed to BYU," said Vaita. "I'm not looking at other schools and haven't since I committed."

Vaitai is a 6-foot-3, 295-pound offensive lineman who cites his burst off the snap as his biggest strength. While viewing Vaitai's highlights, it is easily apparent that he consistently wins the leverage battle because he gets good position thanks to the way he explodes off the ball.

The Trinity High School all-star is very confident in his run-blocking abilities, but to thrive as an offensive lineman at BYU, pass blocking is key. Vaitai will focus on that aspect of his game from the moment he arrives in Provo.

"Coach Grimes visited me this past Tuesday and talked to me about it," said Vaitai. "My school hardly passed at all, so I haven't really worked on proper pass-blocking. That is what I need to learn most and what I'll work hardest on."

Vaitai committed early to BYU due to the feeling he had while in Provo for a youth football camp and to being very impressed with the Cougar coaches and program in general. A factor that may have pushed him toward an early commit was his cousins Manase and Matangi Tonga, to whom he is very close.

"Growing up, I'd fly out to California all the time to spend summers with Manase and Matangi; we're very close," said Vaitai. "We're like brothers, and it's going to be great to play with both of them at BYU."

Vaitai plans on playing a year and then leaving on an LDS mission. During his first year, he does not have specific goals other than playing the hardest he can and hoping that the best will come of it.

Like most recruits, Vaitai was able to see the Las Vegas Bowl and came away very impressed. Unlike most recruits, however, Vaitai was not able to see the entire game, only catching the final quarter.

"I had a youth activity at the church that night," offered Vaitai as his alibi. "But what I saw I liked a lot. I knew we'd beat them like we did."

BYU was coming off three losing seasons and a 6-6 campaign when Vaitai committed to be a Cougar last April. After BYU's recent success, Vaitai feels validated in his early decision.

"I've always wanted to play for BYU and knew they would be good," said Vaitai. "But seeing them be so good last year definitely makes me more excited. BYU is a great program."

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