The Emotion Behind The Catch

BYU tight end Vic So'oto caught his first touchdown pass on October 13 against the Rebels of UNLV. His excitement and celebration in the end zone with his teammates might lead one to believe that it was due to the fact it was his first collegiate touchdown. However, that simply was not the case.

In a game where he saw time at the fullback position in place of a hampered Manase Tonga and an injured Fui Vakapuna, sophomore Vic So'oto caught his first touchdown pass of his football college career.

"It was my first touchdown and it was great," said Vic with a smile. "Max Hall threw a great pass to me and it just felt great. I had some injuries early on in the season and so I haven't had many opportunities."

Following the catch, Vic was met by fellow teammates Harvey Unga, Max Hall and others to celebrate his accomplishment. There was a deeper, more meaningful reason behind Vic's joy in catching that touchdown pass. That reason stems from a promise he made to his uncle Wally Molefua long ago.

"When I was being recruited my uncle Wally and my mom Sili, who were both big BYU fans, wanted me to come to BYU," said Vic. "My uncle Wally played here back in the days and wanted me to come here. He would always tell me that BYU is the place to be and he was right."

Vic was a highly recruited athlete out of Carlsbad High School. He had received scholarship offers from BYU, Arizona, Oregon, San Diego State, Utah, Washington State, Nebraska and Wyoming. Vic became Coach Bronco Mendenhall's first commit as head coach of BYU.

"My uncle always told me that BYU was the best place for me," Vic said. "He was right and I've seen the benefits of how being here has really affected me in my life spiritually and athletically. I'm just thankful for my Uncle Wally's role and guidance in my life because without him I might not be here or be the same person."

"[Wally] screamed his head off when he found out that Vic was going to BYU, because [he thought] Vic was going to go to Nebraska or Oregon," said Vic's father, Vic Sr. "Bronco was here at my house doing an in-home visit before letter of intent day, and I snuck away and called Wally up to tell him he had just committed to BYU. He was screaming on the phone because he was so excited."

"There is no question that Wally was instrumental in Vic coming here," said Coach Reynolds, a former teammate of Wally's. "Vic was always all over the place. I remember when we were recruiting him I used to tease him because whenever he would come home from a recruiting trip that was where he was going. Every week he was going somewhere, so it was a real battle to get him."

Even though Wally was currently sick with cancer, he managed to attend his nephew's signing of his LOI at Carlsbad High School. It was then that Vic made the promise to him.

"Wally was there with our family when Vic signed his letter of intent to play at BYU," said Sili. "Right then and there is when Vic told Wally that he would give him his first football [that he scored a touchdown with]. I remember Wally kind of chuckling and laughing because he said he would be looking forward to it because he would be there. Wally was sick at the time but was always so optimistic about beating his sickness."

"I told him that I would give him the first ball when I scored my first touchdown," Vic said. "He loved BYU and followed BYU all of his life, and because he was so influential in helping me to come here I wanted to give him my first ball that I scored a touchdown with as kind of a tribute to him."

Wally Molifua graduated from Carlsbad High School in 1969 and later went on to play football at BYU in the early 70s. Later he would return to coach football at his former high school, where he would eventually coach and influence future USC and NFL linebacker star Junior Seau. Wally would go on to become the first person of Samoan heritage to become an educator in North County, San Diego.

"[Wally] was one of the early Polynesians that played here at BYU," said Coach Reynolds. "He was always an upbeat, smiling, happy kind of guy. I remember whenever the defense would come down to do team scrimmage or when practice ended, some of the players would form a square and he would lead them in a chant. He would say something like, ‘E Totongi tongi e,' and the defense would chant something back at him. So he was a great leader and a great impact guy on our team as far as his positive personality. On top of that he had great feet and was explosive and could change direction quickly as well. He was a real nice addition to our team back then. He was a real pleasure to have around."

"[Wally] was one of the main reasons why I joined the church," said Vic Sr. "We called him the gentle giant and he was such a big guy and so mellow. He was the one the helped me to be more calm and become more Christlike. Just the way he lived his life he was such an example to me. It makes me teary eyed when I talk about him."

Sadly enough, So'oto never got the chance to personally give his uncle Wally the football that he scored his first touchdown with. Wally Molefua unexpectedly passed away on April 4, 2005 at the age of 53 from heart failure, but despite the early passing of his uncle it didn't detour the Cougar tight end from keeping his promise.

"Vic wanted to get a football signed and get it to [Wally's] family," said Coach Reynolds. "I know they were trying to make arraignments to get the team to sign it so he could give it back to the family. This is something that is really nice for him to be thoughtful and mindful of them."

"My son he is such a humble guy," said proud mother Sili. "I thought he would keep the ball for himself, being it was the ball he caught for his first touchdown, but he had decided to give it to the Molefua family as part of his promise to his uncle."

"I'm sure [Wally] was watching me from up there," Vic said. "He passed away before I had a chance to give him the football. I'm still going to give the football to the Molefua family as a token to them for playing a big roll in my life, especially in helping me coming to Provo. I saved the ball and I'm going to get it signed by my teammates and give it to my Aunt Davyne Molifua. I want to give it to her to honor [Wally] for my first collegiate touchdown."

BYU quarterback Max Hall is happy to have played a small part in such a meaningful moment in his tight end's life.

"That is such a really cool thing," said Hall. "I'm really happy to have been a part of that. I know that won't be the last one either. There will be many more touchdowns in the future for Vic, I can tell you that."

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