BYU Lands Big O-Tackle

When Coach Grimes left BYU to go coach at Colorado, he mentioned how there were 14 offensive linemen in the Cougar stable that are ready to play, and that the biggest task for the incoming offensive line coach would be to figure out which five would start.

With so much top-quality talent already in the program, the decision to offer a junior college offensive tackle might seem like a poor one. So, why did BYU coaches offer big Jesse Taufi out of Long Beach City Junior College when they already have so much talent on the roster? It's simple. Taufi was simply too good of an offensive linemen for BYU coaches to pass up.

"I'm around 6'5" and I right now I weigh around 340 [pounds]," said Taufi. "I play offensive tackle on the o-line for Long Beach City. I'm going to be a sophomore this year and will graduate this December, so I'll be out there for the next spring ball."

And how would he describe his style of play on the field?

"I don't know," said Taufi. "I don't compare myself to anybody. I like to de-cleat people, and that's what I like to do. I'm pretty quick for my size and a lot of people underestimate me and don't think I can move [because of] how big I am."

Taufi already has a connection with the Cougars, as his cousin is BYU d-lineman Russell Tialavea.

"Me and Russell pride ourselves on how fast we can move for our size. Many people don't think I'm as fast as I am, which is why I like pulling and going after those linebackers, because they think I'm slow. That's what I like to do."

Taufi and his Cougar cousin Tialavea have talked about what it's going to be like playing together at BYU.

"We've talked about beating each other up on the field during practice and stuff," said Taufi while chuckling. "We talked about lifting together in the weight room."

So how strong is Taufi in the weight room?

"I bench around 420 pounds," said Taufi. "I'm not that strong. I haven't maxed out in my squat in awhile, but I work out with 420. I can power clean 315. I think Russell's got me on the power clean though. I think he does around 360. He's got some big hips and knows how to use them to get under."

Taufi grew up in Carson, California, and played football alongside a current BYU football player that Cougar fans know very well.

"I went to Carson High School and played with Sete Aulai," said Taufi. "We went to Carson together. I've been over to BYU a couple of times and have talked with him. During my high school career I got a lot of recognition and made a lot of All-City teams. I had [offers for] scholarships from UNLV and Washington, but school didn't really go well for me so I couldn't go.

"After high school I moved in with my grandmother [Taeaolelei Tialavea]," said Taufi. "At the time I wasn't really strong in the [LDS] church, but it was my grandma who really pushed me and I eventually went on a mission, which was the best thing for me.

"I served in the Fort Lauderdale Mission. I served in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and went down to the Keys. I served in the southern part of Florida and it was a really good mission. It definitely changed my life."

Following his two years of teaching the gospel in Florida, Taufi came to BYU to see what his chances of possibly playing for the Cougars of BYU were.

"After my mission I came to BYU's Blue and White game," said Taufi. "I think it was in 2005, and they were kind of giving pointers to all the kids and stuff. I just went up to Coach Kaufusi and started talking to him and told him that I was Russell Tialavea's cousin, and that I play football. He told me that there would be a better chance for me if I went to a J.C. and then transfered to BYU, and that's pretty much what happened. I went to Long Beach City College and then sent them my tapes. They liked what they saw and they offered me a scholarship."

Taufi knew many of the coaches at BYU, but he never had that chance to meet and talk with Coach Mendenhall. One day that all changed along with the future of Jesse Taufi.

"It was pretty cool," said Taufi. "I pretty much knew all the other coaches like Coach Weber, Coach Hill, Coach Kaufusi and most of the rest, but [I had] never met Coach Mendenhall. Everyone was telling me that BYU was going to offer me, but I didn't really believe it."

After meeting and talking with Coach Mendenhall, Taufi came away knowing more than ever that BYU was where he wanted to go.

"Coach Mendenhall talked to me about how coming to BYU would affect me and my life. That was one reason why I wanted to go to BYU. I kind of already had my mind made up that I wanted to go to BYU before he talked to me, but to just talk to him about it, it was a real easy decision for me [afterwards].

"BYU just has the best environment and that's definitely one of the reasons why I want to go there. Everything is just like the mission field. When I came home from my mission everything was a lot easier for me. I knew exactly what I wanted because I had a different perspective that I gained while serving out in Florida.

"I learned through the teaching of the gospel how to get where I wanted to be. BYU has a great environment and on top of that they have a great football program. I just recently committed and called last Friday and told them that I was committing to BYU. I talked to Coach Weber and Coach Hill."

BYU defensive back coach Jaime Hill was Taufi's recruiting coach and developed a good rapport with the big offensive tackle out of Long Beach.

Coach Hill was my recruiter and he's the one that came out there to recruit me," Taufi said. "I really like Coach Hill a lot. I don't know if he's a member of the church or not [Coach Hill is not LDS], but he did a great job in recruiting me because of the type of person he is. He's a great guy and I really like him a lot. He's just a cool guy."

Recently, USC had been showing a lot of early interest in Taufi and wanted him to keep the option of possibly going to USC in the future. However, Taufi had made up his mind and has decided to commit to the Cougars of BYU and play for his church's college.

"Yeah, [USC has] been showing interest in me recently," said Taufi. "They don't know that I committed to BYU so they'll probably still be calling me and everything. I knew most of the players on their team because I played with a lot of them. When I was on my mission I knew guys like Fred [Matua] and Hershel [Dennis] because I played with them.

"[USC] basically [wants] fast linemen right now and they're looking for a lot of speed on their line because they like that quickness. That's what they told me I could do for them. They wanted me to keep my options open. They don't know that I committed to BYU. I don't think anybody knows, because I just barely committed to BYU last Friday. They'll probably find out now."

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