BYU Receives JC Linebacker Commit

On Saturday Coach Mendenhall and his staff received a verbal commit from a Tongan linebacker out of El Camino Junior College. The commit marks the seventh to give the Cougar coaching staff a verbal this year.

BYU's defense just got a major shot in the arm with their recent commit in 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pound hard-hitting linebacker Tolu Moala. This LDS linebacker was somewhat under the radar until about three weeks ago when Coach Hill discovered him.

"Coach Hill came down to El Camino about three weeks ago," said Moala. "I guess he was there to recruit some of the other guys and I was kind of an unknown player that no one really knew much about. While Coach Hill was there, I caught his attention. My athletic abilities, running side to side, running forward and my quick feet, my speed and quickness really caught him by surprise. He immediately came to me. I guess Coach Hill then called a coach and said, ‘Hey do you know anything about this linebacker out of El Camino by the name of Tolu Moala?' I guess they didn't know anything about me.

"I then introduced myself as Tolu Moala and told him that I was a return missionary from Brazil. I guess Coach Hill gave the word to Coach Mendenhall that he had to send out another recruiter out here to El Camino to take a look at me. Coach Hill told Coach Mendenhall that he had his approval as a scholarship athlete, and so Coach Mendenhall sent another coach by the name of Higgins to confirm Coach Hill's opinion. Coach Higgins basically told Coach Mendenhall the same things. He told him that I scored high on their recruiting evaluation list."

On Monday, Moala got in contact with Coach Mendenhall, who wanted to see him in person.

"This past Monday I spoke with Coach Mendenhall and he wanted me to come up," said Moala. "He told me he wanted me to come into his office and speak to me before he offered me the scholarship."

Moala flew up to Utah on Friday to meet with Coach Mendenhall in his office on Saturday.

"I flew in yesterday night," said Moala on Saturday. "I met with him this morning and I committed to him about four hours ago. The meeting with Coach Mendenhall was great and I had a great experience with him. I actually brought my girlfriend [Elisa Smolinski] with me on this trip and didn't want to make a decision without her. I wanted to make sure this was our decision and not just my decision, and so during the meeting he said that this meeting wasn't about recruiting. He said it was about me and BYU and not even really about football. In fact, football was the last thing to Coach Mendenhall."

Moala and Smolinksi are planning on getting married possibly next year. Smolinksi was also impressed with their visit with Coach Mendenhall in his office.

"Sitting in the office of Coach Mendenhall, I felt really comfortable," said Smolinksi. "When he was done speaking he said, ‘So how do you feel about it?' Tolu was like, ‘Well, I feel good about it.' He then stopped and said, ‘Hold on,' and looked at me and said, ‘What do you think?' You know, I was just overwhelmed and it was just pretty much everything that Tolu and I want in our lives. I was like, ‘This is exactly where he needs to be.' To be around people with the same standards, goals in life and the same aspirations, it makes things a lot easier to stay on track and accomplish those personal aspirations."

"First, [the meeting with Mendenhall] was about living a moral life and having high standards," Moala said. "It was about developing and being a better person. Second, it was about education and about learning, and the last thing that [we] touched on was football. You know, to me football is easy and it's something that comes easy to me. To me, football is the easy part, and because BYU is a private institution owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have to live by and represent the standards and honor code that the program has. So the meeting was mainly about my spirituality. [Mendenhall] was more concerned about my life and my spirituality and how I can succeed in my career."

Coach Mendenhall explained to Moala that good football players can play college football anywhere, but not every good football player is good enough to play at BYU.

"He basically said that I can go and play football anywhere else if I want to, but when you come to BYU you have to be more than just a football player. You can be a football player anywhere but at BYU you have to be more than just a football player. He told me that what he is going to ask [of] me is a lot. He told me that he isn't just going to ask me to play football, but to also maintain a high GPA, be an example to everyone in the community, to serve the community and to not only [do] that, but to give firesides.

"He said to me that if I'm up for the challenge to not only play football but to be more than that and accept his challenge of what he's asking for, than he would like to offer me a scholarship. You know, I'm for it. I'm for it and I'm on it. Honestly, it was just like a meeting with my mission president. I believe I can go anywhere and play football and start, but I believe because of what BYU has to offer is more than just football, it's about life. I committed to him right then and there."

After Coach Mendenhall explained to him the philosophies of his program outside of football, to which Moala committed to, Mendenhall then talked about football.

"After the meeting we talked about football," said Moala. "I mean, we talked about his defense, checked out the facilities, and man, it was just five-star. BYU definitely has great facilities and I got a chance to watch some football clips of how they run their defense. I got a chance to watch their highlights from last year and I really liked it, you know."

"After the meeting, then it was all about football," said Moala while chuckling.

Moala left Coach Mendenhall's office both impressed and shocked.

"Honestly, I was just shocked," said Moala. "I was just shocked! I was like, ‘Dang, I thought I was just going to come here and he was just going to offer me a scholarship and tell me about the football program.' I was just overwhelmed by his presentation and meeting. The way he presented his program, because it is his program because it is run under him, I'm happy to have come here to see for myself what BYU really is now and not what it was."

Moala expects himself to come right in and be a major contributor for BYU's defense his first year.

"In terms of playing football, I'm not looking for a place to redshirt," said Moala. "Heck no, I'm not looking to come in and redshirt. I'm 22 years old and I'm a grown man and I don't have time to redshirt. [After] watching those football clips, I believe I can come right in and start and make an immediate impact on that defense."

During last season, Moala saw BYU's pounding of Oregon during the Las Vegas Bowl, and became impressed with the player developmental aspects of BYU's coaching staff, along with other coaching aspects.

"You know what, on paper Oregon was better," Moala said. "They had better athletes and all of that on paper, but BYU executed so well, and played together, that Oregon got beat. BYU is a program where everyone is all on the same team. Everyone is like-minded and have the same standards and knows how to play as one. When you add great athletes to that system you won't be able to stop it. You can't stop it and that's what Coach Mendenhall is now looking for."

Another LDS football player that BYU is looking to bring into their program is Moala's fellow teammate, Simi Kuli.

"You know what, I'm going to talk to him when I get home and let him know that I committed to BYU," said Moala. "He doesn't even know that I committed to BYU yet and even my family doesn't even know yet. I called some of my brothers and sisters to let them know but they're not answering the phone and stuff. I'm going to talk to [Kuli] about my decision to commit to BYU, and I'm going to talk to him about committing to BYU. He didn't know that BYU was recruiting me and probably found on Wednesday that BYU had offered me. I'm going to let him know about it on Monday when I get back to school.

"Simi is planning on getting married, as well, to this girl, and BYU is a great place for that. What Coach Mendenhall is doing right now is the best thing for all LDS football players, and not just LDS members, but what he is doing can help everyone with the big picture. Me and Simi are really good friends and we hang out every day. I know he's serious about Oregon State, BYU, Utah and one more school he's looking at."

Moala has an older brother by the name of Tevita Moala that played for BYU prior to serving a mission. Following his mission, Tevita transferred to Oregon State. After seeing what happened to his brother at BYU, and subsequently how he became successful at Oregon State, Moala grew to dislike BYU.

"[Tevita] got kicked out of BYU basically because he wasn't going to class," said Moala. "One of the reasons why he wasn't going to class was because when you're not playing, it can kind of get to you. It bothers you and you lose motivation. Honestly, I though my brother was the best player out there on BYU's defense, period! You know he was told he was too slow to play linebacker. He wanted to play linebacker so bad, and he was a half-second too slow to play safety. So my brother got kicked out of BYU and went to Oregon State and became All-Pac-10 Defensive First Team.

"So my brother went to BYU and I became a BYU fan because of that. Then my brother left and went to Oregon State, so where ever your brother goes you become a fan of that team. After that I kind of hated BYU. My brother left BYU and went to Oregon State and became the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, and because of that I always kind of hated BYU for that. Coach Higgins was talking to me and he said now BYU is different.

"When I spoke to Coach Mendenhall he said he wanted to offer me a scholarship and that he wanted me to come into his office. Things kind of changed after that. Honestly, I don't think I could have picked a better place to play football. If you go into a meeting with Coach Mendenhall and after walking out that meeting, Utah or any other college for that matter shouldn't even be an option for LDS football players."

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