BYU Nabs Top J.C. Punter

In order to address immediate needs this coming season within the kicking responsibilities, BYU secured a commitment from a top junior college punter from a year ago. C.J. Santiago comes to BYU via Orange Coast College in Southern California and will compete for the punting responsibilities this coming season.

C.J. Santiago is a 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound punter who played for Orange Coast a season ago. Santiago played high school ball in Hawaii at Saint Louis High School before attending junior college. Now having seized an opportunity to play Division I football at BYU, Santiago has fulfilled what he set out to do.

"It's a dream come true, definitely," said Santiago. "I always wanted to play at the Division I level, and now I'll have that chance. I'm just very excited."

Although Santiago set his sights on playing at the Division I level, the thought of playing for BYU wasn't something he had considered early on. However, he has become familiar with the school during the past couple of months.

"I really didn't know anything about BYU until they contacted me," said Santiago. "I watched them on TV for their last two games this past year when they played Utah and Oregon, and could see that they were a top-notch team."

During this past May, Santiago attended the Chris Sailor Kicking Competition in Las Vegas, where he caught the eye of Cougar assistant coach Patrick Higgins.

"It was a competition, where we just showed how well we could kick, that a lot of coaches attend," said Santiago. "I guess I did pretty good, and BYU coaches were impressed. They came up and talked to me and have been recruiting me ever since."

After the initial contact made by Coach Higgins, Santiago went about learning more about the program through letters and conversations with the coaching staff. Santiago's education about the BYU and its football program as a whole was capped off on Thursday as he took a visit to the campus.

"It was just really beautiful and just an unbelievable experience," said Santiago. "I just loved the people more than anything. Everyone was just so friendly and all that. I just really fit in and felt comfortable there."

Santiago, who is not LDS, then went to take a closer look at the facilities and meet with several of the current players and, ultimately, the coaching staff and head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

"The facilities are just amazing," said Santiago. "It's unbelievable, the type of facilities they have there. Everything at BYU is great. I met with a lot of the guys on the team. I talked a lot with guys like Sete Aulai. They made me feel comfortable and I'm anxious to be their teammate."

As mentioned, Santiago capped off his visit by meeting with Bronco Mendenhall, who further explained what would be expected of him as a player at BYU.

"He was very direct and straightforward," said Santiago. "He told me that I wouldn't just be playing football; that I'd be asked to be a role model at all times and that I'd be asked to be a representative of the university and its standards at all times, which is great. I'm not Mormon, but my ideals are the same. I'll have no problem representing the university well."

Santiago will walk on this coming fall to immediately compete for the primary punting responsibilities, and will receive a scholarship this coming January. Santiago is ready to compete and will do his best to secure the primary punting responsibilities for the coming season.

"I averaged 43.4 yards-per-punt this past year," said Santiago. "I'm very accurate. I can pin it inside the 10 and I get good airtime on my kicks."

So off to BYU it is for Santiago, as he'll look to make his mark immediately on the football team.

"I just love BYU," said Santiago. "It's a good place for me. It has a great environment, great education and some great facilities. I love everything about BYU. I never thought growing up that I'd end up playing for BYU, but now that I am I couldn't be more happy."

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