Out Of Confusion Comes A Sealver Lining

Coach Mendenhall and his Cougar staff have sent out the word that it takes a special athlete, uncommon to most programs in the sports world, to be a part of their program, which itself is peculiar among Division-I colleges. On Monday, the Cougar coaching staff received word that such an athlete has given his pledge to be a part of their football program.

Utah's 2007 heavy weightlifting champion Sealver Siliga has told BYU coaches that he plans on signing his letter of intent to be a part of Coach Mendenhall's unique football program.

"I committed to BYU this morning," Siliga said. "I told them that I was up for the challenge that Coach Mendenhall talked to me about when I had a meeting with him after the BYU camp. I called Coach Anae and told him that I wanted to go to BYU. I told him that BYU is where I want to go. I told Coach Doman and he said, ‘I'm really fired up and I'm text messaging all the coaches that we got Sealver.' I just started laughing."

The path to becoming a Cougar wasn't an easy one for Siliga. Rather, it was born out of uncertainty and confusion after mistakenly interpreting Coach Mendenhall's words, and almost led Siliga to commit to the Utes.

"I didn't grow up a Utah fan, but I think Bronco was testing me," Siliga said. "That's my impression and what my head coach was telling me also. Coach Mendenhall said, ‘We are not here to scout you. You're here to scout us.' To me I felt what he was saying was that he didn't want me, and so when they didn't offer me I [thought], ‘Okay, then I'm just going to go to the U of U and I don't want to go to BYU.' After I got my scholarship [offer] from the U of U, I was just thinking Utah all the way.

"Now when I think about what Coach Mendenhall said when he said, ‘We're not here to scout you but you're here to scout us,' I think he's saying that we [as recruits] need to see if BYU is the right place for us. I think what he was saying to me was [to find out] if I had the right heart to be at BYU, if I could live up to the challenges, the commitments and the responsibilities that come with being a part of BYU. He wasn't saying that they didn't want me and that they're looking at somebody else. After thinking more about it, I understood what he was saying."

However, prior to coming to the understanding of what Coach Mendenhall was truly saying, Siliga had it firmly planted within his mind that taking the U of U scholarship was the right choice to make. With two scholarships offers now firmly in hand from rival schools BYU and the U of U, Siliga was set on joining good friend Kendric Moeai at the University to Utah. Wanting to know if this decision was the right one, Siliga sought a spiritual confirmation. That opportunity came by way of a peculiar circumstance while he and his family were driving through the mountains on towards a church activity for his Ward.

"I was driving with my family to our ward camp," Siliga said. "We were going up there and everything was fine and then we just broke down on the side of the road. There was nothing around but hills, mountains and trees everywhere. My mom and everyone left in another smaller car to go get the part to fix the bigger car that broke down."

With nothing to do but wait, Siliga took this opportune time to seek for guidance among a grove of trees somewhere deep within the mountains of the Wasatch front.

"It was just my two sisters and I that stayed behind, so I left by myself and hiked up a nearby hill to some trees with both of my scholarship offer papers from BYU and Utah," said Siliga. "I just put both of my papers down right in front of me and I knelt down. I looked up and saw the sun was going down and then I just said my prayer. "

Siliga said he was originally about 95 percent sure of his decision to take the scholarship offer from the U of U, but he came away from his private moment of supplication with a different feeling.

"Before I said my prayer I had the thoughts of going to the U of U in my mind," said Siliga. "I just went up there on that hill thinking that Utah was the best place for me, but right after I said my prayer I paused for a little while and my mind just went blank. After that I didn't have any more feelings about going to the U of U.

"After that, what happens up at the U of U didn't really matter to me anymore. It became more of what place was going to help me the most, and what place was going to help me grow the most, prepare me most for my mission and help me grow spiritually because of the environment."

Following his prayer, Siliga's certainty about accepting the scholarship offer from the U of U was now in question. Throughout the week, Siliga felt Heavenly Father gave him subtle hints in answer to his prayer.

"Throughout the week it was weird," Siliga said. "I would just be sitting there and someone would come up and bring up BYU. I never heard anything about the U of U throughout the entire week of Ward camp, and I never said anything about BYU or the U of U during the camp. Nobody knew that I had been offered scholarships by both schools. Throughout the week, I would hear the older people talk about BYU and the younger kids talk about something to do with BYU. Then it just hit me that through the entire week I never once talked to anyone about football and never brought it up with anyone about how I had been offered by BYU and Utah.

"I thought it was just kind of strange and felt right there that this was a sign from Heavenly Father on what I should do. It was weird because people would be walking by and I would hear them talking about BYU. It was just weird because in everybody's conversations I would just hear these things. At first it was weird, but then it kept happening to me. I just thought that maybe BYU is the place for me to go, and maybe BYU is the place for me. At first I thought it was just a strange coincidence, but after it kept happening I think Heavenly Father was trying to help me notice it."

Upon his return home, the words of Coach Mendenhall came to mind as he reflected upon the experiences of his personal prayer in that small grove of trees on that small hill, as well as his camp experiences.

"I remember when I spoke to Bronco during my scholarship meeting," said Siliga. "He told me to always remember the feeling that I had at that time and to not forget it. He told me that when I leave this room that I would meet people who would try to make me feel different than what I felt with him in that room. He told me that people would try and tell me things like, ‘You shouldn't go there because it's too strict, it's too hard and you won't make it there,' [and] that people will tell me that I shouldn't go to BYU because it's not the easy road. When I was in that room talking with him I had a strong feeling, a good feeling.

"Coach Mendenhall was right because soon after I left there I was told that the U of U was the easier path. Thoughts came in my mind that if I go to the U of U I don't have to go to church, I don't have to work hard with school and I don't have to do this or that. When I was up at ward camp I felt like those were the things that I wanted to do, but when I came back home the opposite feelings came. I saw and felt the difference and just felt like BYU was the place for me."

Remembering the words spoken by Coach Mendenhall while sitting in his office, Siliga followed up his decision to commit to BYU with a phone call to the Cougar head coach.

"I tried to call Coach Mendenhall but I wasn't able to reach him," said Siliga. "I left a message because I remember him telling me once that if I'm up to the challenge to call him. I left a message and told him that I want to take this test. I want to take this challenge that [Mendenhall] given me and get both spiritually strong and be strong in school and in football. I told him that I wanted to be a Cougar."

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