Livai Changes Locale, Changes Life

Talai Livai moved to West Jordan, Utah and Bingham High School from Fontana, California almost exactly a year ago. He made the move in order to improve his football skills, live in a better environment, and most importantly, raise his grades and eventually graduate from high school.

"I'm doing well, really well," said Talai Livai about his current state. "I was real nervous when I made the move to Utah, but it's working out very well and I couldn't be more happy right now."

Livai is a 6-foot-4-inch, 293-pound offensive line prospect that will be starting at left tackle and defensive tackle for Utah prep powerhouse Bingham High School this coming year. More importantly, Livai is succeeding in the classroom and in all other aspects of his life that were taking a downturn back home in Fontana, California.

Livai grew up in adverse circumstances where many of his teammates and classmates were making wrong life decisions, often leading to drugs, dropping out of high school and other debilitating decisions. Entering his junior year, Livai knew he needed to make some changes.

"I wasn't a bad kid, but I wasn't doing real well, especially in school," explained Livai. "I was getting just Ds and Fs pretty much in every class and there really wasn't any motivation for me. My football team wasn't good and they didn't really encourage any of the kids to be better and to get good grades."

Indeed, a good portion of Livai's teammates were showing up for games and practices unprepared, to put it mildly. On the Fontana football team, there wasn't much direction and the future of most of the players wasn't bright, to say the least.

"A lot of my teammates would seriously show up to games stoned," recalled Livai. "We were always unprepared to play. We had some great athletes on the team, but we were going nowhere. I had to get out of there."

Beginning Again at Bingham

Coming off of his sophomore year, Livai was looking for a change. He did not want to be part of the destructive environment around him, and he sought to improve his schooling on and off the football field. That change came about when George Pritchard, father of 2008 BYU signee Iona Pritchard, took Livai in and became his legal guardian so that Livai could go about making the changes he needed to.

"I'm sort of a shy kid, so it wasn't easy for me moving out here," recalled Livai. "I've never lived in Utah and didn't really know the guys I was moving in with, so yeah, it took me a while to feel comfortable, but now, wow, I love it here. I couldn't be more happy or more grateful to the Pritchard family."

Livai has since taken full advantage of his new situation and is succeeding where he was failing in Fontana. The change has taken place mostly in the classroom, where Livai has changed his D and F grades to As and Bs.

"I'm studying now," said Livai. "I'm encouraged to study and I have a lot of people pushing for me to succeed. My parents back home are pushing me, George and Iona are pushing me, and it's helping a lot. School isn't easy for me, but I'm learning to work at it and know now that if I do I can get good grades and that I can graduate from high school and go on to college."

Livai is also part of a much better football program. At Bingham he feels he's playing for the best coach in the best program he could imagine.

"I have so much respect for Coach Peck," said Livai about his new head coach at Bingham. "He's the perfect coach in my mind. He demands your best, but doesn't do it negatively. He encourages you and is always positive. He expects a lot out of his players, and I like that."

Indeed, Coach Peck issued a minimum grade point average of 3.0 for his football players in order to be eligible to play and be part of the varsity football team. By doing this, Coach Peck is better preparing his players for the next level, which is the goal for any high school coach or teacher.

"Yeah, he's helping me become ready to play and succeed in school when I graduate," said Livai. "If you don't get good grades, you don't play. It's tough, but it's making us more focused as a team."

Livai has also found great influences at his new home with the Pritchard family. Upon moving in with the Pritchards, Livai quickly found out that he wouldn't be getting free room and board, but that he'd have to work in order to earn his stay, which he said he's thankful for.

"I have to do chores every day, just like everyone else," explained Livai. "We're working on finishing the basement right now. George always does good at keeping us busy, which is a good thing."

Livai has also taken careful note of Iona, and the two became fast friends. Livai said he feels that with Iona, he has the perfect example of how to succeed in high school and earn a Division I scholarship offer to play football.

"I do everything he does, at least I try to," said Livai. "He's a real good kid and we're real close. We're like brothers and I certainly look up to him as an older brother. I just try and do what he does and what he did in high school."

Raring to Go

Upon transferring to Bingham High School, Livai's grades were such that he couldn't become eligible to play on the team his junior year. While he practiced with the team, Livai would have to wait a full year to put his skills on display on the regular field of play.

"It was really frustrating," said Livai. "I wanted to play so bad, but I wasn't able to. I think that motivated me more than anything to get my grades up, so I wouldn't have to sit out again my senior year."

Livai is well on his way and will play a key role in Bingham's anticipated success this coming season. He's currently slated to start at left tackle on offense and defensive tackle on defense.

"I'm definitely ready to play," said Livai. "I think most schools will look at me as an offensive tackle, but I love defense. I love hitting people, so I'm glad I'll be playing both offense and defense."

Despite not playing his junior year, Livai has still garnered attention from some college programs.

"I'm getting letters from BYU, UNLV, Weber State and Kansas State right now," said Livai. "It's exciting and surprising because I haven't really played at all. Hopefully I'll get even more when I start playing."

A lot of Livai's early attention was perhaps garnered at the Aiga Camp in California last month, which saw Livai go against some of the top prep talent and come out on top by being named as the camp's top offensive lineman.

"I did good at the camp, but I feel I could have done so much better," said Livai. "I'm rusty from not having really played much."

Livai is intent on attending BYU's camp this summer and any other camps he can in order to improve his game and showcase his skills to college recruiters. He is set to attend the Nike camp at BYU along with BYU's regular team camp, where he'll get the opportunity to go against some of the top in-state talent.

"I'm excited," said Livai. "I have a lot to prove, having not played a year. I want to go to BYU. If they offer me, then I'll go there; I don't care who else offers me. Hopefully I get that offer. It's not going to be easy though."

Livai is working as hard and as best possible to prepare himself for his final prep season. He makes regular visits to work out with the SPARQ training program to improve his strength and skills.

"My bench isn't real good right now, but I'm working hard at it," said Livai. "I've never really worked out before, so it's taking time. I'm better at the squat and other areas. I'm real mobile for my size, which should help me."

Livai looks to improve his 275-pound bench press, but is happy with his 500-pound squat and 5.0 forty time. Beyond that, he has seen noticeable improvement in just about every area in his life and is excited for what the future holds.

"I'm in a position where I can succeed and go on and play in college," said Livai. "I'm so thankful to the Pritchard family, to Coach Peck, my teammates and my family back home. I'm getting good grades, I'm staying out of trouble and I'm working hard to improve my football skills. I'm doing great."

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