Afutiti Takes Long Road to Fulfill Dream

Bernard Afutiti signed with BYU Wednesday, and in so doing fulfilled a childhood dream. Afutiti comes to BYU on the heels of some impressive junior college credentials, having starred for Mt. San Antonio Junior College. Despite some impressive offers from some of the top schools in the country, the choice to sign with BYU was an easy one for the star lineman.

"It's always been BYU since I was young," said Bernard Afutiti regarding his decision to sign with BYU. "BYU is my dream school, the school I always dreamed of playing for when I was a kid. So when they offered and especially after I visited, the other offers didn't really matter that much to me."

Afutiti had offers from the likes of USC, Oregon State, Arizona State, Michigan, UTEP and Ohio State, among other schools, but BYU won out in the end.

"It's a family school," said Afutiti regarding BYU. "It's a school where I can raise my son and be with my wife and feel the most comfortable. It's all about family at BYU and that's exactly the type of school I want to play for and earn a degree at."

BYU was Afutiti's intended school after high school despite the fact that he had such schools as USC, Oregon State and Oregon offering him scholarships out of high school. Afutiti was a non-qualifier and had to go the junior college route in order to make himself eligible to attend a Division I school.

The school of choice for Afutiti was Mt. SAC, where he thrived while playing some defensive end and defensive tackle, leading to MVP and First-Team All-American honors at the junior college ranks.

"I did well here," said Afutiti about his experience at Mt. SAC. "I grew as a player and as a person and I feel now well prepared to succeed at BYU and in playing at the top level."

Afutiti was not short of options after playing at Mt. SAC. However, all the offers he received and was to receive fell by the wayside after the visit he took to BYU in mid-October.

"It was an incredible trip," related Afutiti. "It was perfect. Everything was seriously perfect about BYU: the program, the spiritual and family environment and everything else."

On his trip, Afutiti was accompanied by his wife and two-year-old son Zak. As their trip came to a close, Afutiti's wife was every bit as sold on BYU being the right place for them as he was.

"I just remember my wife telling me that that was it, that BYU was the only place for us and that I needed to sign and to play there," said Afutiti. "I was thinking the same thing, but man, she really loved our trip there."

During his trip, Afutiti was able to come in close contact with the unique environment that BYU offers. While walking around campus with his son in a stroller, Afutiti felt as if he fit right in.

"Everyone has strollers and kids there," said Afutiti. "It was like I could imagine USC and other schools and how they would have racks for bikes. BYU needs racks for strollers. I loved that. I seriously loved that so many people had families and kids just like me."

Afutiti was able to meet with head coach Bronco Mendenhall and echoed the words that have become so common when recruits are asked to describe the head of BYU's football program.

"Straight-forward, honest and direct," said Afutiti regarding his future head coach. "He talks to you about everything: life and then a little bit about football. He tells you like it is and it made me feel very comfortable."

Through his conversations with Mendenhall, Afutiti was able to gain a great sense of just how much Mendenhall cared about his players.

"He knew everyone," said Afutiti. "He knew exactly who was on missions, how many were on missions, which ones were coming back. He really knows and cares for his players, which was very impressive to me."

Afutiti was able to meet with the players in the program and hit it off well with center Sete Aulai, among others. He was also able to meet with his future position coach, Steve Kaufusi.

"It was my first time meeting Coach Kaufusi, but I really liked him," said Afutiti. "We talked a little about where I'd be playing and what I needed to work on and stuff like that. I'm sure that I'm going to learn a lot from him."

While it could readily be assumed that Afutiti will be competing immediately for a spot at defensive end, that isn't necessarily the case.

"Coaches talked to me about playing both inside and outside," said Afutiti. "I played both in junior college, so wherever they need me I'm fine with it, you know? I just want to play. I want to play really bad and to help out wherever I can."

Following his trip to BYU, Afutiti had USC coaches trying hard to schedule a trip with him in hopes of securing his signature on Letter of Intent Singing Day. For Afutiti, however, there was no need.

"I'm from Southern California," said Afutiti, who hails from Fontana. "What am I going to learn from tripping to USC? I know what USC is and what they have to offer. BYU has more to offer for me and for my family, and that is why I'm going to BYU."

Afutiti plans on graduating this spring and then transferring to BYU during summer semester. In so doing, he'll be able to work out with his teammates for the entire season and become as ready as possible to play and to contribute right away.

"I have a redshirt year available, but I really don't want to use it. Nobody does," said Afutiti. "I want to play and help out right away. I don't really even care if I start. I just want to play."

Afutiti measures in at 6 feet, 260 pounds, and mentions his explosiveness - or what Coach Kaufusi describes as "quick twitch" - as his biggest attribute as a player.

"I'm very explosive off the snap," said Afutiti. "I get going fast and I come as hard as anyone. Nobody is going to slow me down. I give 110 percent on every play. I work hard to beat my guy off the snap and then I don't quit until the play is dead."

Afutiti certainly doesn't intend on slowing down now that he's realized his dream of playing for BYU. He said he aims on working that much harder in helping the Cougars to the next level.

"BYU is always where I wanted to be," repeated Afutiti. "Now that I have the opportunity to finally play for BYU, I'm going to do everything I can to become the best player I can be. I can't wait to get up there and to get going."


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