DiLuigi Plays to Prove He Belongs

For the past two years, Cougar running back J.J. DiLuigi had the UCLA game circled on his calendar. So when California's CIF Division I State Champion MVP took the field against the Bruins, he did so with something to prove.

While playing running back for Canyon County High School in central California as a junior, J.J. DiLuigi rushed for 1, 870 yards on 261 carries and scored 43 touchdowns to secure the Foothill league record. It wasn't long before the Bruins of UCLA came calling with interest.

"I watched UCLA my whole life," said DiLuigi. "I was never a really big fan but I've always watched them. They recruited me and so it was just fun to play against a team that I've always known."

DiLuigi followed up his monster junior season with another incredible year. He averaged 154.2 yards per game and rushed for 2,159 yards in one of the toughest football leagues in California. He singlehandedly put his high school team on his back and won his school's first state championship game. DiLuigi's phenomenal senior season led to various programs, including UCLA, having renewed interest in him

"[UCLA] recruited me heavily," Diliugi said of his initial recruitment. "They recruited me a lot and told me that I was their highest [rated] back and stuff. They never really committed to me, but then I committed to BYU, and then towards the end of the season that's when they came back around again. I just told them that I had already committed to BYU and I'm committed to them. I drove out to BYU and committed. I wanted to show [BYU] that I was committed to them."

UCLA coaches may have dropped DiLuigi from their recruiting board at one point, but he remembered the things that were said but never came to fruition. When UCLA came to Provo last Saturday, he licked his chops in anticipation of what may come. DiLuigi hoped for the chance to prove that he could play with the best of them, and he did.

"It was a lot of fun and I was just happy to have the chance to go out there and redeem myself after that first game," DiLuigi said. "I took full advantage of the opportunity when I got out there.

"It was a great feeling not just for myself but for the whole team in the way we executed out there. It was a very exciting week for me and I tried to prepare as best I could just in case I did get the chance to go in and play against them, because I've been working for that and waited a long time. It was a goal of mine to go out there and show that I was prepared.

"It was unreal. That game will be talked about for a long time. I think I did as well as the line was able to drive me and [I] think we as a second-team unit had a really good showing against UCLA's defense. Our second-team unit is going to be tough, the whole unit."

DiLuigi was asked to compare UCLA's defense to BYU's defense.

"I don't know if I could say they were tougher than what I've faced here on the practice field at BYU, but they played a good defense," said DiLuigi regarding UCLA. "Both our first- and second-string lines were just blowing holes through their defense. They were just doing great against their defense."

DiLuigi rushed the ball seven times for 34 yards, averaging more than 4.8 yards per carry. Overall, it was a very memorable game for DiLuigi.

"There were a lot of memorable moments," DiLuigi said. "Getting into the game was one of them, for starters. It was a lot of fun, especially having some success against them. I wasn't nervous or anything and was really excited. I wanted to prove something. I wanted to prove that I could play wherever and still be good."

DiLuigi was surprised to see how easily success came by way of what he feels is a top rated defense. Word around the Cougar practice field was that the Bruin defense was ranked among the top 10 defenses in the country.

"It did surprise me a little bit," DiLuigi said. "That's a really good defense. I mean, they were ranked among the top 10 defenses in the nation before our game. That's what they were saying today. Just some of the players were talking about it and in meetings. They are a really good defense. I mean, you just watch them in that Tennessee game and you could tell they were a really good defense. So, it was great to see our second-team offense go in there and not miss a beat. We kept driving down the field on them and even scored a touchdown, so it was a great day for us as a second-team unit."

DiLuigi and the second-team offense took the field in the third quarter and didn't miss much of a beat.

"It was a little of heart, desire and effort by our second team," DiLuigi said. "We wanted to go out there and make a statement."

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