Te'o Feels He Made The Right Choice

There were 11 football prospects that came out of Kahuku High School this year and will play at the next level. Five of them went to a Division I program. For hard-hitting, bone-crushing Conference Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-State safety Shiloah Te'o, BYU is right where he needs to be.

"We just had an annual thing at Kahuku where all the players that are moving on sign their LOI in the gym around 10:00 on signing day," said Shiloah Te'o. "So it was just basically that we got recognized for our achievements in football.

"All the boys that were moving on to other school, even boys that signed at the JCs, were there to sign their papers. There were 11 of us altogether. Five of us were going [Division I] and the other six were going to JCs. It was a big deal and all that. They had all the news channels there and a lot of the students were there to support."

The four besides Te'o that are moving on to Division I are DE Alema Tachibana and OSLB Paipai Falemalu (both to Hawaii), OG Anthony Siilata (Oregon State) and Benji Kemoeatu (West Virginia).

Tachibana had at one point committed to the University of Utah along with Kemoeatu, but when a last minute offer from Hawaii came in, Tachibana felt it would be better he stay close to him where his family could watch him play.

"Tachibana didn't have an offer from Hawaii until around a week before signing day," said Te'o. "So when they offered him he committed to them so he could stay home. He's like a home grown kid."

Kemoeatu decommitted from Utah and decided to play his college ball closer to his brother Chris Kemoeatu, who plays for the North Carolina Panthers.

While on a recruiting trip to BYU, Te'o became good friends with another BYU prospect also on the trip.

"Me and Uona Kaveinga became pretty good friends," said Te'o. "We are both Polynesian and so we just started talking to each other. We just started kicking back and talking. Everywhere we went we were together, like with our snowmobile group and stuff, so we just became close and he committed [to BYU] up there. I was asking him to commit and he did."

Although Te'o had other offers, he stuck by the commitment he gave to Coach Mendenhall and signed his BYU LOI.

"It feels good and I know I made the right choice," Te'o said. "I still talk to Uona, even though he went to USC."

After their trips to BYU, Te'o and Kaveinga kept in touch prior to LOI day. Te'o even called and spoke with Kaveinga about his decision to back off his BYU commitment and go to USC, and after some friendly jostling even congratulated him.

"[Kaveinga] told me to call him every day before he committed to USC," Te'o said. "I called him every day and he told me he was coming even the night before. Then he chose USC the next day. I talked to him after that and he just said he wanted to stay close to home. I don't know, maybe he got caught up in the hype or something. I told him, ‘You looked like you were ready to cry on TV.' I told him, ‘It looked like you made the wrong choice.' He said, ‘Stop hating on me man.' I told him that I wasn't mad at him and congratulated him."

So in Te'o's mind, why did Kaveinga decommit from BYU?

"He said there was a lot of pressure on him in LA to go to USC," Te'o said. "Like his head coach wanted him to go to USC, and a lot of people wanted him to go to USC."

Te'o is also a close friend to fellow teammate Jrey Galia'i, who transferred from Timpview High School prior to last season and started as the Red Raider quarterback.

"[Galia'i is] playing basketball right now," Te'o said. "He told me that's his best sport and that he was going to go to the NBA until his father told him he wasn't going to go. That's when he started playing football in the eighth grade.

"In football, he's a good athlete. He's fast, elusive and explosive. I think he's going to be really good in the future."

Recently, Galia'i and Te'o attended a fireside where Coach Mendenhall and Coach Kaufusi spoke. Te'o invited his cousin Manti Te'o, who happens to be a highly recruited linebacker out of Punahou High School, to attend.

"I pulled Manti out to the fireside that Coach Mendenhall and Coach Kaufusi were at," Te'o said. "Coach Kaufusi kind of talked about everything and it was all about church and not about football. Coach Mendenhall talked about holding onto the feeling that we get when we're in church and maintaining it throughout the week, like don't feel good on Sunday and then lose it on Wednesday because you don't have that feeling anymore."

And what did Manti think of the fireside?

"He said he liked it," said Te'o. "He just kept saying how much he liked it. We'll see how it goes."

And what about fellow teammate and BYU commit Jrey Galea'i?

"Oh, Jrey is like the number-one BYU fan," Te'o said. "I just think he liked the fact that they were there. For him, the fireside just topped it off."

The theme of Coach Mendenhall's fireside talk was similar to what he had already shared with Shiloah earlier on during an in-home recruiting visit.

"[Mendenhall said] when you go to BYU you feel really good, but then when you go home things can wear on you and change that feeling," said Te'o. "He told me to always be good and to stay strong."

So how was his in-home visit with Coach Mendenhall?

"It was different than the other coaches," Te'o said. "He came in with a suit and tie, and it was a lot different because we really didn't talk about football. We talked mostly about being a better man off the field instead of on the field. It was a really good experience. With Coach Mendenhall, the way he speaks to you and looks at you is different. You feel the spirit when he talks to you. You can feel his sincerity. [Coach Mendenhall] doesn't beg you to come to BYU, but if you feel BYU is the best place for you, then it is the best place for you. If not, good luck. I don't know, he's just a powerful man.

"The other coaches were cool too, but they were just strictly about football. They drew up where they were going to have me play and tried to sell me their program. It was just all about football and a little bit about academics and stuff like that. Mostly they would just talk football, football, football and nothing else. You can tell they want you but they will tell you anything to get you there. They will tell you anything to butter up your ear to make you feel good, but when it really comes down to it you don't really know what is the truth or not."

Over the summer Te'o is going to fly out to Arizona, where he will meet with former Cougar and fellow Red Raider alumnus Aaron Francisco.

"I'm going to start working out with my dad," Te'o said. "Then after graduation I'm going to go work out with Aaron Francisco down in Arizona. He told me to start working out now and to get ready because he told me [that] with his trainers it's really intense. They have a nutritionist and they have a nutrition plan. I'm going to head out there around the first or second week of June.

"I just have to go out there already in shape and put all of my effort into it so I can get the best out of it. I'm really excited and he spoke to me on signing day, and that's when we set it all up. He told me that he had 18 percent body fat and it went down to around six percent in two weeks or something like that.

"I just want to come into the season and shock everybody at BYU because many talk to you like you're not going to come in shape as a freshman. I really want to show everyone that I'm ready to help out the team, whether it's on special teams or one the defensive side of the ball if I work hard enough. I'm just excited to work hard and play for the Cougars."

Te'o is currently undecided on whether he will stay in Provo and play football for the four or five straight years or whether he will leave on a mission later.

"I know that Coach Mendenhall will support me and my goals," said Te'o. "I know that he will be there for me for my future no matter what; whether or not I plan on going on my mission, I know he will support me. It's such a good feeling to know that there is always someone there for you no matter what, someone like your own father. Someone who really cares, who really cares."

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