Just prior to graduating from high school, Tufuga married Jessica, his high school sweetheart. The possibility of ever suiting up and stepping onto a football field seemed to be setting further and further in the distant horizon. Tufuga thought he would never play football again.
It wasn't until one day when Tufuga went to a semi-pro football team's camp in Salt Lake City to watch his cousin play that he considered a return to football. There he met one of the players on the team, who convinced him he should go back to school and play football. This specific player told him if he didn't he would regret it for the rest of his life.
Tufuga thought about it and then acted upon the advice that was given to him. Later, he enrolled at Snow College where he would be coached by Snow defensive line coach Jason Ah You. Coach Ah You was that very semi-pro player he happened upon by chance that day, and who convinced him he should go back to school and play football.
Last Thursday, Tufuga's hopes and excitement of one day playing D-I college ball became a little more intense.
"It first started last Thursday. [BYU] wanted to know what kind of people we were," said Tufuga. "They wanted to know what type of personalities we had and what type of people we were to see if we were a good fit for BYU. After meeting with them they told us they would be thinking about it and possibly be in contact with us in the near future. Last Monday I spoke with Coach Tidwell, who said Coach Mendenhall wanted to meet with me again."
Tufuga and his wife, as well as David Hola, drove from Ephraim, Utah to meet with Coach Mendenhall last Wednesday. The excitement and thoughts of "what if" ran through their minds as they made the drive to Provo.
"We kind of had an idea after we spoke with Coach Tidwell last Monday," said Tufuga while chuckling. "He said that Coach Mendenhall had thought about it and that we could possibly receive an offer, and so we kind of had an idea that we might get an offer today but we really weren't sure.
"On our way down we were really excited and were talking about it. We really didn't have any words to describe it because we were thinking how exciting it would be to get our first scholarship offer, and not just any offer but an offer from BYU. We were just talking about and thinking of how it would be to play together on the same team in the future.
"We were getting excited and thinking that it might come true, and how all those things we talked about might come true with a team that had a defense that was ranked 15th in the nation, and a team that had a good coach like Coach Mendenhall. Those were the kinds of things we were talking about in the car as we were driving on up to Provo."
When they finally arrived on campus at BYU, Coach Mendenhall took Hola into his office first for a personal talk.
"He took us in one by one and took David in first," said Tufuga. "Later, David came out of his office all happy with his offer."
Waiting outside Coach Mendenhall's office, Tufuga was next and went into Coach Mendenhall's office with his wife Jessica.
"I went in with my wife," said Tufuga. "He took us into his office and we sat down. "We met with Coach Mendenhall and he told us that he really wanted us to be a part of the team. He told us that he felt that BYU was the place that we needed to be to play football and to continue our careers. He told us that it's bigger than just playing football."
What Coach Mendenhall did next was something Tufuga never thought would ever have happen in his life.
"He looked at me and said he was going to hand me an offer right now, and that I didn't have to commit right now," said Tufuga. "He told me I could commit whenever I was ready. He told me that he wanted me to know that he felt this was the best place for him to be able to be molded and shaped as both a football player and as a person. He told me that he felt this was the best place for me to have a bright future. It was a real positive interview and he told us that we needed to pray and fast about it and do whatever we needed to do to reach our decision on whether or not we should commit to BYU or not.
"It's really just a crazy thing, you know. I was just thinking of how blessed I was to be sitting there and getting a scholarship offer. I was thinking a lot about if I should just commit right there or tomorrow, so I don't have to worry about any other schools or stuff like that. There were a lot of things that was going through my mind, but those were some of the things that were going through my head."
Tufuga had previously mentioned that his wife Jessica would be a part of the decision making process, and her being there in the office of Coach Mendenhall as he extended to her husband a full ride scholarship means now she is a part of a real decision for her family.
"She was saying how happy she was for me and for the opportunity of our family to go out there," Tufuga said. "She didn't really didn't say too much after that but she was really happy. She was really proud of me. I mean, we have come a long ways together and to actually sit there and have a scholarship placed in my hand was just a great experience. We reminisced on how far we've come together. It was just an overwhelming experience and we just felt we were really blessed. I mean, there was a time when I thought I would never play football again. I just feel like I'm really blessed."
While sitting in his office, Coach Mendenhall told Tufuga to fast and pray about committing to play football as a Cougar at BYU. Tufuga, along with his wife, will once again take the advice of a former player-turned-coach and will do just that.
"I definitely am going to do that," Tufuga said. "It's a really big step for me and before I take that step I think the right thing to do is to pray about it and fast to do whatever I need to do to receive an answer on where I need to be. It's bigger than just me because I have my wife and my kids, and I think it would be good for me to go to the Lord for help and direction. I don't know exactly when I'll come to a conclusion. I hope to at least have an answer for Coach Mendenhall sometime in the near future. The ride home back to Ephraim was filled with joy and happiness."
"After their visit with Coach Mendenhall, the two Snow defensive tackles realized that their dreams of playing together had come true.
"Oh man, the ride home was exciting," said Tufuga while chuckling. "We were both so excited and just shaking hands and congratulating each other. We were talking about being at BYU together and being in that atmosphere and a part of the team. That's what we were talking about on the way back. We were talking about both of us committing and playing together at BYU, and having a good season together there.
"It's definitely an overwhelming experience. Like I said, I gave up football and now we both have the opportunity to play together here at the J.C. level and now at the [Division I] college level. It's really just kind of overwhelming."
On Saturday, Tufuga will walk through the graduation ceremony at Snow Junior College. However, he still needs one more class in order to get his degree. If he wanted to, he could possibly take that class prior to enrolling at BYU for fall camp and participate in the upcoming season.
"Yeah, that's right," said Tufuga. "I do have an opportunity to do that. I'm not too sure if BYU wants me that early or not. I'm just not too sure on that. If I came to BYU this fall I would have three years to play three."
Tufuga is going to follow up and see what his options are in regards to whether or not he will have the possibility of playing D-I college football this fall.
"I talked a little bit with Coach Ah You about that," Tufuga said. "He asked me if this would be something I would like to do. I just told him that I would like to play my last year at Snow for him, but if this is a situation that does come up I would definitely talk with him about it first. He's already told me that anything I wanted to do, he's got my back, so I definitely want to talk it over with him and see that the best decision would be."