Kaveinga's Personal Reasons Behind Transfer

Linebacker Uona Kaveinga, ranked ninth in the country at his position coming out of high school, had scholarship offers from UCLA, USC, Arizona, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, Colorado and BYU, and chose USC in the end. Now a few years later, Kaveinga is transferring to BYU based on what he deems to be most important in life.

USC is a top-tier football program rich in history, associated with the BCS, and that has dominated the Pac-10 during Pete Carroll's tenure. So, it is easy to understand why Uona Kaveinga and other top LDS athletes might choose USC over other college football programs.

"Well, first of all USC is a great school and a great football program," said Kaveinga. "They have a great football program and have everything a teenager or young man would want. The problem is, I think BYU is still the better place to be and it took me two football seasons to realize that. It took me that long to realize how special BYU truly was.

"Don‘t get me wrong, USC is a great football program, but what makes BYU unique is what the program stands for and what it has to offer on top of being a great football program. The way Coach Mendenhall carries the program and the way he carries himself I feel will benefit me more in my life. I just feel that BYU will benefit me more in the long run. I realize that more now."

When the lights of L.A. beckon and the glitter and gold of Tinseltown shine, it's easy to understand why high school kids can become wide-eyed with excitement when coaches talk of glory and fame during the recruiting process.

"During the time when I was being recruited when I was around 16 years old, a lot of things go through your mind when you're that age," said Kaveinga. "I mean, you know what you know but you don't really know much about the world and it's easy to be persuaded by getting caught up in a lot of hype. It‘s right on point to say that a high school kids can get caught up in the glamour and the glory of believing what a college program can offer them. It can be a little deceptive in what they really want.

"I've learned so many things through all this and have been through a lot of trials and tribulations. I think USC happened for a reason. I feel now that I had to kind of go to USC to learn what was most important. At the time when I was in high school, I wasn't really thinking about those things. I think being at USC, it helped me to understand and see what was really needed in my life. The reason why I'm now choosing BYU is because BYU stands for something really important. There's the gospel and the honor code and it's a great program for any LDS athlete to be at. It's a great blessing. "

Following his two-season awakening, Kaveinga felt a strong personal conviction that change was in order no matter the cost. He visited USC Head Coach Pete Carroll and explained to him some of those personal reasons.

"I just sat down with Coach Carroll and told him that I wanted to transfer to BYU," Kaveinga said. "I told him that it was more for my personal life and my religion. He said he totally understood and supported me. I was grateful for his support that he gave me, and Coach Carroll is a great coach and runs a great program. I just feel grateful for the blessings and opportunity that Coach Mendenhall has given me and accepting me into his program. I just feel blessed."

When Coach Mendenhall first became head coach at BYU, an effort to reestablish BYU's unique identity was put in full operation. Coach Mendenhall, to the rumblings of many fans and boosters, laid out time and time again the multifaceted principles by which his program would operate. His belief was these valuable principles would have a domino effect towards success. The first principle of Coach Mendenhall's program revolves around faith, whereas football doesn't appear until fifth on the list.

"First of all for LDS athletes, we should be more than just football players," Kaveinga said. "We stand for so much more, and to just say we're football players is selling ourselves short. I believe we should all have balance in our lives emotionally, spiritually, socially as well as athletically. BYU is a great program that provides and helps you out in all that. I know that everyone has their own free agency and can make their own choices, but with my experience at USC I can tell you that BYU is the best program for LDS athletes if they want to surround themselves with more than just football. You're surrounded by people who can relate to you more and have more in common with you and your beliefs.

"The greater [thing] is to be at BYU where the football program has been proven, you can grow in your spiritual life and be involved in church. You can have it all. Spiritually, I was rock solid and held my ground at USC. Football-wise, I learned a lot at USC and the main part about USC or any other program is to just be a football player. At BYU, I believe, [they] care more for you as a person and your growth and not just as a football player."

Not only was Kaveinga coached by defensive-minded USC head coach Pete Carroll, but he was also developed by position coach and former NFL linebacker-great Ken Norton. The football pedigree is definitely there, but Kaveinga said he is looking to connect with his coaches on another level.

"The coaches at USC are really good coaches," said Kaveinga. "Coach Ken Norton is a heck of a coach and knows what he's talking about. He's been through it all at the highest level. But when it comes down to the coaches at BYU, you can relate to them so much more because of both football and the gospel. No matter where you're from or who you are, you can relate to them better because you have more in common. It really personalizes things so much more and feels really good that you can relate to them more on a daily basis with something that is more personal. To be able to have that kind of relationship with your coach is really special and there aren't that many coaches that can do that on this level. For an LDS athlete like me, I know I can relate to the coaches at BYU on a level that many don't understand."

Kaveinga acknowledges that his decision is an unusual one.

"I don't know if there are a lot of young men that would be on scholarship on USC's football program and leave it all behind to not be on scholarship for another football program," said Kaveinga. "Someone who would leave that situation and pay his own way just to be at BYU, I don't know if there are very many athletes who would want to do that in college football today. People may call me crazy or whatever, but when you know how special BYU is you'll do whatever you need to do to get there. I'm just grateful for the opportunity given to me by Coach Mendenhall and the coaching staff. Even the fact that they would talk to me and accept me as a player and as a person in their program is a blessing to me. I'm just very grateful for Coach Mendenhall's open arms and this is a blessing for me to be able to represent BYU and something more than just football. There's no looking back now."

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