Jordan Afo Will Not Be Broken

Defensive tackle Jordan Afo of Cottonwood High School has received a full-ride scholarship offer from BYU. The big Samoan is excited about his Cougar offer and is looking forward to his final year of high school football, especially since that opportunity almost never came.

At Cottonwood High School, Jordan Afo had been a big presence on the Colts' defensive line. Coming in at about 6 feet 3 inches and 320 pounds, Afo is used by the coaching staff at multiple areas but is projected to play defensive line at the next level.

"I can play defensive tackle or nose guard," said Afo. "They switch me around if they want me to even play defensive end sometimes. I like playing on the d-line because I can just go after the ball, and that's pretty much what I do."

Although the happy-go-lucky Afo has received quite a few letters from colleges, BYU, Oregon State and Utah State are the three primary schools that are recruiting him the hardest.

"The kid is a hard worker and is a humble kid," said Cottonwood High School assistant coach Alaitupolu Kalaniuvalu of Afo. "He's always smiling. He's getting all kinds of letters. There are a lot of schools that are showing interest in him like BYU and, I just recently found out, Utah State. Oregon State offered but it's not official, but you know, he's a big kid and has a lot of ceiling. His potential is high up there and if you were to see him on the street you would think he was just a big older kid. In reality he's young, but when you look at him you would think he was around the 25- or 26-year range, but he's just a baby. Once he is able to put in a full year of offseason training along with what is required by a program, he is going to be something special. Right now he's just playing with what he's been blessed with. He's still very raw but has a very high level and is just playing with what he was naturally blessed with."

"It's cool over there [at BYU]," said Afo. "I think Oregon State offered me but I never got a chance to talk to their head coach like I did with BYU's. I was just told that by one of our coaches that they offered me, but I haven't seen the offer."

Oregon State's defensive line coach, Coach Seumalo, told Coach Kalaniuvalu that Jordan Afo would have a scholarship offer on the table after seeing him play in one game during last season.

"Joe Seumalo came in and watched us play Highland last year and during halftime he pulled me aside and asked me who was that kid," said Kalaniuvalu. "I said his name is Jordan Afo. He said, ‘Well, tell him he has a scholarship offer.' However, there's no legit paperwork on that. I'm sure his word is legit but they just want to make sure he takes care of business like all kids must do."

So what does Afo think of his Cougar scholarship offer? He's grateful for many different reasons that extend beyond the football field.

"That was cool because football isn't always going to be there, so I was looking for something that would also help me fall back on something," Afo said. "When I went to BYU they have a good program that I can fall back on. Also, Provo is a nice place without a lot of drama. I've been down there and the facilities are really nice. They told me things that you'll hear at other colleges such as I'll be able to do this or do that, but over at BYU they talked about other things as well, which is what I liked.

"I like football but I know it's not all about football. Football wasn't the first thing on their list and I liked that, because with other colleges that's what it's all about. When I was at BYU, they pulled out my transcripts and told me what I needed to work on, so they were more interested in me and my success. It seems like they were not just interested in helping me become successful in football but successful in life. I think that's where I need to be. When football is over I need to be successful in life."

Afo is LDS and has expressed an interest in serving a mission, though he has no definite plans.

"I can see him going on a mission, said Coach Kalaniuvalu. "Off the field he's not a trouble kid or a gangbanger. He's just a happy-go-lucky kid. You can count on him when you need him. When you need someone to go and reach out to another kid, Jordan is that type of person. He even cuts his teammates' hair. His specialty is getting his teammates' hair ready to go before Friday. He even did my hair one day and he did a good job. He's just a very fun kid to be around."

However, the decision on whether or not to serve a mission is down the road a bit, and the more immediate concern is when he will decide to commit to a college of his choice.

"I think it's a good thing that I have a scholarship to play for BYU," said Afo. "A lot of people know about BYU and what it stands for. For me, I'm not sure if I want to commit to BYU so soon. I'm still waiting for other schools to come look at me, or for me to have the chance to look at other schools. I would like to take a few trips if I can and get a chance to do that before I commit. I know there are a lot of colleges that if you go there you can get into a lot of trouble easily. At BYU they have certain standards in place, and if you can't live those standards then you can't go to BYU. For me, I can live the standards and it's pretty easy."

Although Afo may have a scholarship offer from BYU, another school that he is interested in is the University of Utah, which has yet to offer him. The Utah campus is located close to where he lives, and Afo has had the opportunity of visiting there on occasion.

"I met people at the U of U and they seemed pretty cool up there, but when I met people up at BYU they seemed alright, you know," said Afo. "The U of U is another school that's on my mind. I like BYU's locker room better than the U of U's though. When I went up to BYU's campus it was nice, but when I went up to the U of U it was pretty nice too. It's hard to really say which one is nicer. I've never really gotten the chance to talk to the coaches up at the U of U, but I've had the chance to talk to almost all of the coaches up at BYU."

Upon meeting him, one Cougar coach Afo was impressed with was head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

"I was really comfortable with Coach Mendenhall, especially when he gave me the scholarship offer," Afo said. "He told me straight to my face, ‘No matter what, if you get hurt we'll still have an offer for you.' That was something that really impressed me a lot. A lot of colleges will pull your scholarship away if you get hurt, but Coach Mendenhall told me that I would have a scholarship no matter what happened."

The promise given by Coach Mendenhall to Jordan Afo on that day turned out to be quite significant. The Cougar coaching staff has remained committed to Afo despite the fact that he suffered a major injury that not only nearly cost him his college football career but his way of life as well.

"Yeah, I broke my back," said Afo. "I'm healing up pretty quickly though. The day after my surgery I was walking, but I've got a doctor's appointment this weekend to see if I can get the back brace off. If I can get it off I'll just continue to let it heal and get ready for football. I'm really blessed with how things have gone for me. I've healed up really fast and they said that I was an inch away from being paralyzed."

While in the hospital Afo received letters and phone calls, when allowed by the NCAA, from the Cougar coaching staff. True to their word, the BYU coaches continued to support Afo following the delicate surgery and never rescinded on the scholarship offer.

"Steve Kaufusi is the one that is recruiting me and I really like him," Afo said. "He called me after I broke my back and gave me a lot of support. He's been keeping in touch with me a lot when he can, and the coaches have been sending me a lot of cards. When they can talk to me they call and I talk most to Steve. That means a lot to me and showed me how much they care about me. I'm really close to Coach Kaufusi and I think we'll get even closer if I go there. Talking to him, he just seems like a really cool guy. He talked to me about playing defense and he wanted me to start or I could be the backup nose guard if I was a freshman now. He's really cool."

"I spoke to Steve Kaufusi a couple of weeks ago," said Coach Kalaniuvalu. "He called me because I am the academics coach here at Cottonwood High School. He wanted to keep track of the kids' grades here and make sure they're on track for college. He gave me a call a week after Jordan got hurt and wanted to know about his academics and if he's going to be good to go. He didn't even worry about his recovery but wanted to know if he would be eligible for college academically. I told him yeah, that he should be good to go. There's going to be a little bit of work but he should be okay."

While Jordan Afo was in the hospital, BYU coaches continued showing support during his time of personal hardship. It's something that really hit home emotionally for Afo, and that support is something he's very grateful for.

"I think it just shows you how much they care for me as a person and about my life and not just because I play football," said Afo. "They care more for the person and not just the football player. It really hit me hard when I was in the hospital to see all these letters from BYU saying ‘Get better' and ‘We know you'll walk again.' I just thought that was cool. Even when I was hurt they still came out and opened up their arms to me. It was really cool."

"They're waiting to see how he recovers from his broken back," Coach Kalaniuvalu said. "It was kind of a crazy, freakish accident where he hurt himself with this injury. When you hear the words ‘broken back' you automatically think he's done, but I see Jordan now and he's still smiling as if nothing ever happened to him. According to our head coach Cecil Thomas he'll be good to go before the season starts."

Although he's currently wearing a brace and recuperating from his broken back, Afo wants to continue playing football and enjoy life.

"It does scare me a little bit but I don't want to live life in fear," Afo said. "If I get hurt and can't play football again that's my fault, but I just want to live life to the fullest and not regret anything."

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