Kaveinga Lists BYU Among Top Choices

Top California LDS linebacker Uona Kaveinga is keeping his options open and will take his time during the recruiting process. Kaveinga and his family had been out on an unofficial trip to BYU recently.

Leuzinger High School's Latter-day Saint linebacker Uona Kaveinga is Dr. Jekyll off the field, but Mr. Hyde on the field. The junior Bay League Defensive Player of the Year had given an early verbal commit to UCLA, but is still keeping his options open and will take his time before deciding on which school he will play for.

"You don't learn how to hit," said Kaveinga. "You just go all out and sacrifice the body. I'm looking for an opportunity to ball. I want to play."

Other things Kaveinga is looking for in a college is being a part of a winning team.

"I want to be a part of a team that really wants to win, and they really love football," Kaveinga said. "I play linebacker, fullback and some tight end. As a linebacker I like to rush off the end."

Because of his aggressive style of play on the field, Kaveinga feels he's whole different person.

"On the field I'm a hypocrite," Kaveinga said. "I don't know, I guess I'm different. I'm a different person off the field but on the field I'm kind of a hypocrite. I don't care if you're family or friends; if I'm playing against you on the field I just don't like you. Off the field I just chill and goof around. On the field I talk about football but off the field I don't talk about football."

BYU was one of the first colleges to offer Kaveinga, whose father is a bishop. The Kaveinga family drove up to Provo, Utah to visit BYU prior to their annual Blue and White Game.

"BYU is a really good school," Kaveinga said. "I liked it there and it was like growing up in the church. BYU is like the church, and it was better than I expected. I thought it was going to be a really boring school but it wasn't really like that.

"I was thinking it was going to be a bunch of church people going to school, but it was like half the team is married and most of them are return missionaries. I thought that was a good thing. It's a very good thing."

Kaveinga was also able to watch a practice session prior to Junior Day activities and the Blue and White Game.

"I thought the practices were very organized," said Kaveinga. "It looked like everything was ran very professionally and organized. The only difference is there are a lot of old men on the team.

"I guess that's what happens when 70 percent of the team had taken two years out of their lives to learn foreign languages and serve around the world.

"I'm going to serve a mission," said Kaveinga. "I was thinking, ‘Man, these guys look old and bald or something.' But serving a mission is a big priority for me. I want to come in for one year and then go on my mission. I'm not afraid to compete and I'm not scared of competition."

Kaveinga also spoke with many of the LDS Polynesian players on the team, like Manase Tonga and Fui Vakapuna.

"Yeah, we were just kind of clowning on some of the guys and stuff," Kaveinga said. "Yeah, me and Manase were just cracking up and talking about the rivalry between BYU and Utah. He was telling me how Utah did him dirty. You know how before he left on his mission the head coach [Ron McBride] got fired and then they hired Urban Meyer who kept his scholarship. Then Urban Meyer left and then Utah got another head coach and they dropped his scholarship. When he came back from his mission, Mendenhall asked him if he wanted to play for BYU and they gave him the scholarship."

While visiting the campus, Kaveinga was also able to tour the campus, check out the football facilities and student center, and talk with the coaches of BYU.

"Yeah, I saw everything," Kaveinga said. "It's a big campus and everything is clean, very clean. It was like walking into a church. They've got the best facilities so far that I've seen. Everything is basically new and they've got NFL facilities over there, and maybe even better.

"I got to sit down one-on-one with Coach Mendenhall. Coach Mendenhall is a good guy. He's a straight-up kind of guy and tells you the truth. He wants you if you want him. We just talked about the purposes of BYU, and if you come to BYU what you would represent to the nation and to the world. They take football as a tool to show everybody how to represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's not just about football at BYU. At BYU, football is like fourth on the list."

Kaveinga feels that Coach Mendenhall has incorporated the perspective of missionary work within his program as a means to help convey the values and positive moral influences found at BYU through the field of college football.

"Yeah that's exactly it," Kaveinga said. "I kind of expect that though from a Latter-day Saint school. I would have no problem with it in what Coach Mendenhall wants his players to do. That's what he told me. He also told me that BYU is on the rise and that you have to expect a lot of big things if you come and play at BYU."

Kaveinga also spoke with many others on the coaching staff.

"I spoke with Coach Tidwell, Coach Kaufusi, and all the coaches," Kaveinga said. "I think they're good coaches and I know they can coach, but it would be better if they just knew how to joke around a bit more. You know what I mean? You know, like crack jokes, man. I don't know, I guess it's just an L.A. thing."

Kavinga's parents were very impressed with the LDS environment and the coaches of BYU. In fact, his parents feel BYU is place where he should be.

"My parents said it's the place where I'm supposed to be," said Kaveinga. "I'm just going to wait it out I guess. I just want to have fun."

Growing up in the hustle and bustle of L.A., Kaveinga is a bit worried that college life in Provo would be a big adjustment for him as a student athlete.

"It's just different," Kaveinga said. "I grew up in L.A. all of my life and it's really hard to change. Everything is slow-paced at BYU, but the environment is a good learning environment; I know that. BYU is really organized and it's clean. There are a lot of things at BYU that will help you to be focused on rather than other things you could do."

As far as the academic side of things goes, Kaveinga feels that businesses around the L.A. area may possibly favor a degree from an L.A.-based school over a BYU degree.

"I already know that I'm coming back to L.A. after college," said Kaveinga. "I think a USC or a UCLA degree would be better than a BYU degree here. You know what I mean? I think L.A. businesses like L.A. students.

Kaveinga also feels that because he is an active LDS athlete who plans on serving a full-time mission, a college environment isn't really going to matter much to him or influence him. What does matter is playing football and how well a college program can help develop his football skills.

"I know nobody's perfect," said Kaveinga. "I don't really need to be surrounded by perfect guys because everyone has problems. If I'm around guys doing things I'll just tell my teammates straight up what my standards are and who I am. I'll tell them straight up what church I go to, and I don't even need to hang around them.

"I can play ball with them and go to school with them, but I don't need to hang around with them off the field. I can always just come home, if I do stay close to home for college, and hang out with my brothers and my friends from church. I am taking [BYU] serious though, and BYU is one of my top schools."


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