"You know, BYU was always his first choice," said father Ephraim Te'o. "He signed with UNLV right out of high school and I'll always be grateful for UNLV for that. From the very beginning, Malosi knew where he wanted to go to college, but in the end it all came down to which college was going to pay for his education. He's always had a soft spot in his heart for BYU."
During his senior year, Malosi didn't receive much playing time during the regular season due to missing some earlier team camp requirements.
"He got in late to camp his senior year," said Ephraim. "He missed their unity camp, which was pretty important to [head coach] Siuaki [Livai] at the time, so he didn't start at all. By the time the season ended, he only had 200 yards on the season."
However, later in the season, this hidden gem would blow up the field during the state playoffs at Kahuku.
"He went in and talked to his position coach and said, ‘Coach, I need to play," said Ephraim of his son. "So right off the bat, the coach gave him a shot and he ended up with 90 yards, and for the next four games he ran for around a total of a thousand yards. I think he also averaged around two or three touchdowns per game."
From his on-field performance during his senior season, a highlight video of Malosi was made and shown to Coach Mendenhall.
"Malosi lived with my brother David [Te'o], and he and Shiloah [Te'o] are very close," said Ephraim. "Shiloah was paid a visit by Coach Mendenhall, and his father David showed him a highlight video that no one had of Malosi's. Everyone had his junior highlights, but [BYU Football Administrative Assistant] Duane [Busby] told Bronco Mendenhall that he needed to see his senior highlights. After Mendenhall saw his senior highlights he said, ‘Holy cow, we need to offer this kid.' The next thing we know we got a call from BYU asking if we could meet with Bronco Mendenhall, so my wife and I went in and met with Bronco Mendenhall."
After he signed his letter of intent with UNLV, Malosi would fill out his mission papers and serve in New York. More than 18 months into his mission, he learned he had received a scholarship from the Cougar coaching staff.
The coaches were saying they were looking for someone that can find the holes, shake, then break away, and that's what they said they saw in Malosi," said Ephraim. "I said ‘great,' and that I feel he would make a great fit."
Sensitive to the situation, Coach Mendenhall didn't want to bring any distractions to Elder Te'o while he was still out in the mission field. After much thought on how to handle the situation, he turned to Ephraim.
"You know, Bronco was really sensitive to that," said Ephraim. "Both he and the entire coaching staff were very sensitive about that because they didn't want it to be a distraction to him while out in the mission field. Bronco Mendenhall was just prying it over in his mind on how he was going to do this. He basically just left it into our hands."
Also not wanting to distract his son from his missionary work, Ephraim waited as long as he could to tell his son of his new BYU scholarship. However, Elder Te'o learned from a little birdie that there might be some news.
"I wrote him a letter about two weeks ago," said Ephraim with a chuckle. "I had to write it because the news got out to Malosi. Malosi had wrote me a letter that said Shiloah told him, ‘Hey, you're a good fit for UNLV and that's the place for you.' Then all of a sudden I get this letter from Shiloah that says, ‘BYU is the place for you and that there is no other place for you.' Then at the bottom there is a question mark with the words, ‘What is going on?' So I wrote him a letter and said, ‘This is what's going on. You were offered a scholarship by BYU and I have the offer letter, and the reason why you haven't heard anything is because we didn't want it to be a big distraction for you while you were out in the mission field.'
"I kind of laid out the pros and cons on both schools and told him, ‘Here, this is how I see it.' He wrote me back a couple of days ago saying that he was torn between this and that."
The Te'o family is close friends with former BYU Cougar and current assistant UNLV coach Keith Uperesa. Malosi reportedly feels a sense of loyalty to the school and the coach that first gave him a chance to go to college and play Division I football. Since he found out about his BYU scholarship, he's had to wrestle with a new decision.
"I told him not to be confused about things," said Ephraim. "He's so loyal to UNLV, but his heart has always been at BYU. Now that BYU has offered him, you can see the turmoil inside. You can see the struggle inside because of his loyalty to Keith Uperesa and BYU because that's where he has always wanted to go. He told me, ‘Dad, you make the decision for me.' I just barely wrote a letter back to him saying, ‘Son, this is all you. I'm not going to make this decision for you, but you have to look at this decision from a business perspective.' I told him that he has to treat this like a business opportunity, and that's why I gave him the pros and cons in a previous letter."
As Ephraim continues to correspond through with his son, he has seen a slow transformation.
"I think he knows what he wants to do," Ephraim said. "It's really has to be an objective decision. When you take the emotion out of it and say, ‘I have no loyal ties to Keith Uperesa and no loyal ties to Coach Mendenhall,' and look at the program itself and compare apples to apples. You know, I think Malosi in his mind knows what he wants to do. I wrote him in a letter and said, ‘Malosi, it sounds like you know what you want to do and have made a decision. Obviously with this decision you're going to have to call and communicate with people on which way you're going to go.' In my letter I told him to take the loyalties out of the picture and look at the programs, look at the education, look at the goals and look at the things that go above and beyond football, and that's how you make your decision.
"You can't compare Keith Uperesa to Bronco because they're two different personalities. You can't compare UNLV to BYU because to each his own. Some may prefer UNLV over BYU, but I told him to look at his own spiritual growth. Look at what kind of a person he wants to be and look at the things that mean a lot to him in his life. Those are the things he has to draw from each of these programs and make a decision. If one program offers more, it offers more. Then it should be a no-brainer for him. I'm beginning to read within his letters that he is leaning towards one school over the other, and, you know, Malosi has always been a spiritual giant."
Ephraim said BYU offers a number of advantages over other schools.
"Honestly, I've always loved BYU," said Ephraim. "I love the academic standards and the spiritual aspects that BYU has most of all. BYU is a school that's close to home and only 15 miles away, and we don't have to move vary far just to watch him play. And you know, the same standards that apply to me apply to all the Te'o's in what we want for our sons. For Malosi, his first cousins [Shiloah and Manti Te'o] are like his brothers to him. They all played Pop Warner football together [and] went to the same school for a while together. They are very close."
But of course, as Ephraim said, this is his son's decision, and is apparently a decision that he will make soon.
"I think he wants to get this over and down with early so he can focus on the last month of his mission," said Ephraim of his son.
Once Elder Te'o decides either way, Ephraim will inform Total Blue Sports of his son's decision.