Travis Tuiloma is a 6-foot-3-inch, 290-pound defensive tackle recruit from Topeka, Kansas that meets most definitions of what an under-the-radar recruit is. With Tuiloma playing for a relatively low-profile football division while attending few if any offseason camps, BYU took a leap of faith regarding his play based on what they saw on film and offered him a scholarship.
Tuiloma in turn took a bit of a leap of faith in committing to BYU without a visit to the campus or even a conversation with Cougar head coach Bronco Mendenhall. His reasoning? He knew enough and his family members felt enough trust with his recruiter Steve Kaufusi to commit.
Since the time of his commit he's held true to it, but only was able to finally visit BYU to get a firsthand account of the school earlier this month on an official visit.
"I've thought about it a lot, but I didn't really have a certain picture in my mind of what it was going to be like," Tuiloma said. "I've had so many relatives that went there telling me what it's like, I've looked at all sorts of pictures, and I don't know, I've never once doubted that it was the place for me, so it wasn't like I was expecting a big thing or anything like that. I've always known it's where I need to be, so whatever it looked like and felt like while being there, I've already had that same feeling. But yeah, it was great to see it for myself."
The first thing that struck the Kansas native were the mountains.
"I remember just looking outside of the plane and thinking ‘wow, those are beautiful,," he said. "When I landed and saw them even closer I couldn't believe how big they were. Utah truly is a beautiful state with all the mountains."
He was picked up by offensive coordinator Robert Anae at the airport and was able to converse with him for the first time.
"I was expecting Coach Kaufusi to pick me up, but he already had a full car, so I went with Coach Anae, which was great," said Tuiloma. "Coach Anae and I had a great conversation and it was good to meet him. I was real anxious to meet with Coach Kaufusi again though because he was the big reason why I committed to BYU."
He did get his chance to meet with Coach Kaufusi and with head coach Bronco Mendenhall for the first time, and was struck with how honest and upfront both of them were. Overall, his trip only worked to confirm what he already knew about BYU.
"Like I said, nothing surprised me and nothing wasn't like I thought it would be," he said. "What was great was meeting my future teammates. That's probably the thing I was most excited for before going. I hung out with most of the defensive linemen for the most part. Guys like Tayo [Fabuluje], Graham Rowley, Bronson [Kaufusi] and Teu [Kautai], those were the guys I was with most of the time and got along with probably the best, but I got along with everyone."
His official host was Romney Fuga, who has seen a lot of success at the same nose tackle position that Tuilioma will be trying to earn a spot at.
"I loved Romney Fuga and how he was with explaining everything to me," he remarked. "We didn't talk much about football, but he's a great guy and someone I hope to be like with how he plays and how he gets good grades and all that. He was a great host."
Since his visit Tuiloma has been able to converse with head coach Bronco Mendenhall even more, as the Tuiloma family was able to welcome Mendenhall into their home this past weekend.
"That was amazing," he said about Mendenhall's visit. "We just sat and talked with him for hours and that was really neat for me and for my family. Me and my parents had met him on our trip to BYU, but to have him in our home was a special thing for us. We talked about everything from football, but most of all about what I needed to do to prepare myself to be there and what it takes to succeed at BYU. I love Coach Mendenhall and everything about BYU. I've never doubted my decision, so meeting the coaches and seeing the program up close just confirmed what I already felt, that BYU is the place I need to be."