BYU Offers California Lineman

The Cougar coaching staff is in the hunt for top-caliber offensive lineman, and has found one California lineman worthy of a BYU scholarship offer. As it just so happens, that lineman is interested in BYU.

Siaosi Aiono is a 6-foot-4-inch, 290-pound South Hills High School lineman that has received a BYU scholarship offer despite the fact that BYU has limited scholarships available for the next class due to returning missionaries.

"I play offensive tackle right now but my coach says I'll probably play offensive guard at the college level," Aiono said. "I also play some defensive tackle too, but I like playing on the offensive line more. That's my ticket to the next level."

Aiono is LDS and has plans to serve a mission prior to enrolling in college. He is also familiar with BYU after having attended a camp on the Cougar campus last summer.

"It was a lot different than other camps that I've been to," said Aiono. "The way they set it up is more like being at the college level. You room in the dorms and you have a roommate. There's nobody there to wake you up to make sure you're at the practice field on time, so it was very much like being at college.

"You have to be responsible and make sure you're on time to practice and at the activities. They put us in groups after the camp and practice and have activities with the church. I thought this was really nice."

Aiono describes himself as being a quick-first step lineman, which is probably why he also gets time on the defensive line. His quick feet will be put to good use as a guard that can pull as a lead blocker when called upon.

"I'm pretty quick for being close to 300 pounds and I can run really well for my size," said Aiono. "The coaches have me at left tackle to protect the quarterback's blind side and I have really good feet."

Currently, Aiono has scholarship offers from San Jose State and BYU, with San Jose State being the first to extend an offer.

"It's kind of crazy how it jus all fell into place," recalls Aiono. "I went to an invitation-only camp at San Jose State with a couple of my friends that also got invited. We went through all the offensive lineman drills at the camp and did all the one-on-ones. After that Coach Green, who is the recruiting coach for my area which is the San Gabriel Valley area, said he was really interested in me.

"He said he was going to get some film on me from my high school. I came home from the camp and probably around two or three weeks later he called my coach and soon I was on the phone with him. He said that they liked what they saw and wanted to offer me a scholarship from San Jose State. He said he was impressed and that was the first offer I received. This was my sophomore year going into the summer."

It wasn't long after that until Aiono received an offer from BYU.

"I went up to the full-padded camp up at BYU and they paired you up in teams and with our position's coach," Aiono said. "The difference was it was padded and I really had a good chance to show what I had."

While on BYU's campus, Aiono took in the surroundings and got a feel for the environment.

"It's really a nice place and I love the big Y on the mountain," he said. "The mountains are really nice and I was able to talk to some of the people on campus and everyone is just really nice. I even spoke to some of the Polynesians that were there helping with the camp and they said some nice things about being at BYU. It's just nice to be at a place where everyone has the same standards as you do."

Soon after the summer camp, Aiono met with BYU coaches.

"I got the chance to talk to Coach Weber," Aiono said. "It was me and a couple of other Poly kids that got offered that spoke to him. Then we were waiting to talk to Coach Mendenhall and I was really nervous because I'm LDS and BYU is my church school.

"We were just talking about the LDS standards and football. He was trying to get a feel for me and asked this question: ‘If I had a scholarship hidden on the other side of this door and there was no doorknob to open it, what would you do?' I told him I would break down the door to find it. That showed him that I had the desire for BYU football. He didn't say much after that and just shook my hand and said there is a scholarship for me. That was the one that really hit me the hardest, because it's BYU. It's every LDS Poly's dream to play for BYU. Now he's just waiting for me to give him a call and tell him that I'm in."

Aiono didn't commit to Coach Mendenhall then, but was nevertheless happy to receive an offer from BYU.

"First of all it's an offer like no other, especially for me being LDS," he said. "I want to serve a mission and I don't know how other schools feel about me serving a mission. That's the one thing I want to do is serve a mission, so for me to have a scholarship from BYU tells me that I will for sure have one when I get back. I just think that's a blessing.

"Also, like I said, the environment is different also. The people there have the same values as I do and you don't have to worry about being put in an uncomfortable position because of your faith."

In addition to looking at what kind of environment different schools have, Aiono is also looking at their academics.

"I want a good education and that's what me and my parents want," said Aiono. "We just went to a couple of Junior Days and talked about what programs would be there to help me with my education if I needed help. We went to UCLA's Junior Day and USC's Junior Day too.

"At UCLA, they didn't really talk much about school or anything, but at USC they talked about education and mandatory tutoring and study hall. They have a system that keeps track of your progress and how they stay on top of their kids, and my parents liked that and were impressed. That's what my parents really want. They want to make sure that I graduate and stuff. That's really at the top of the list as far as what my parents want."

Though Aiono liked the educational aspect of USC, his visit also raised some red flags.

"Well, USC is intense and straightforward, but it was kind of weird because when we were with our parents they acted one way and another when it was just us," Aiono said. "They just turned and just flipped and turned into like this crazy mode. You know how USC is. I don't know, it wasn't uncomfortable but I was just something weird. I just don't know if they're going to act one way in front of my parents.

"The difference between them and Coach Mendenhall is that everything that needed to be said was said straightforward about Church standards and how it would be and what's expected of you at BYU.

"Coach Mendenhall had this list of five things that's written on his board in his office: faith, family, friends, knowledge and football. The fifth thing was football and everything else dealt more with the player or me. I don't think there is another football program that does that. I'm pretty sure there isn't anyone else that does that in a way like BYU does. I don't think there is another school that puts a priority like this that I've seen like BYU."

The time is rapidly coming when Aiono must choose where he will attend college. It is a decision that he won't be taking lightly.

"It just hit recently that I'm going to be a senior this year and need to make a decision," Aiono said. "I'm going to pray about it first. So I'm going to make sure that everything is there first, like academic-wise, and then pray about it. I want to keep my options open and serve a mission, but I just know that there is no other school like BYU, you know."

As one can imagine, BYU is currently one of Aiono's favorite schools.

"I would say that BYU is definitely in my top three," mentioned Aiono. "I would also say San Jose State and UCLA. Those would be my top schools right now."

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