His Path Has Become More Clear

While he was making tackles at Leuzinger High School, Uona Kaveinga was considered one of the best middle linebacker prospects in the country. Having at one time committed to Coach Mendenhall and BYU, Kaveinga switched allegiances by committing to Coach Carroll of USC.

There's no question why Uona Kaveinga was heavily recruited. During his senior year of high school he racked up 147 tackles (28 for a loss) and eight sacks. As a junior he was named the Bay League Defensive Player of the Year and was an all-CIF selection, finishing with 111 tackles, 16 quarterback hurries, nine sacks, five pass deflections, five fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles.

His football skills weren't in question, and being the son of a bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his ability to fit in at BYU wasn't in question either. He had a strong desire to serve an LDS mission and was told by Coach Carroll he could do just that and be able to represent his faith at USC. On February 6, 2008, many within his own family learned of his commitment decision while watching Fox Sports High School Spotlight as he signed with USC.

Two seasons later, Kaveinga sat down with Coach Carroll and expressed his desire to be released from the Trojan program.

"I told [Carroll] that it was more of my personal life and my religion," Kaveinga told Total Blue Sports in a prior interview shortly after deciding to transfer to BYU. "He said he totally understood and supported me."

"We were all very, very happy," said Uona's father Lau back in December. "We understood what he was thinking in that it was good to stay close to home and play for USC, but in the beginning my wife and I were very excited for him to go to BYU ... I think it's good for him and his future. We are all very happy that he is going to BYU. Everyone is happy over here. Even everyone in our ward is happy he is going to BYU now."

Now at BYU, Kaveinga just finished his first spring camp at BYU. He shined on the practice field with the first-team defense and showed why he was so heavily recruited out of high school. The Trojan-turned-Cougar hasn't been on BYU's campus very long, but the experience and influences around him have had a dramatic influence on his life.

"He said he loves it out there and it's a lot different," said Uona's younger brother Junior. "He just said the atmosphere is better and everybody has the same standards and all that. It's been really good for him because his peers and teammates have been a really good example and influence on him. He said it's a lot different and it's been good for him."

"Oh, he loves it there," said Lau. "He said he should have come there as a freshman because he missed everything. He likes it a lot better."

His experience at BYU has affected Uona Kaveinga so much that during the course of spring camp he paid a visit to the office of his position coach, Coach Tidwell, for one of those person life-decision discussions.

"Yes, he talked to the coaches and has decided to go on his mission," said an excited Lau. "He said he is committed to going on his mission, and I agree and told him that I was so happy that he has decided to go. He can go serve the Lord then come back and focus on playing football. I am so happy."

As a father, Lau Kaveinga taught his son at a young age that serving the Lord was most important. After Uona decided to transfer to USC, the disappointment could be heard in Lau's voice when he was asked if his son would serve a mission.

In a quiet voice, Lau said, "I don't think that's going to happen now." But, oh how things have changed.

When Lau first heard of his son's desires to serve, his heart leapt with joy.

"Yes! That is the best thing for him and the best decision for him," said Lau with excitement. "I don't question that because I agree with it. I think he decided to go and do what the Lord wants him to do no matter what, so I agree with him and his decision to do that first. I'm so happy for my son. I am so happy.

"That's the thing I tell him, is BYU is the Church school. The people there take him in and he's very happy with the school, very happy."

"I don't think Uona felt the feeling to go on his mission while he was at USC," said Junior Kaveinga. "There's just not a lot of support there to go and do something like that. The environment's a lot different."

Uona spoke to his younger brother about his decision to hang up the cleats for two years and serve a mission.

"Yeah, that's a good thing for him to go out there and serve a mission," said Junior. "He told me that it's the Lord's work and it was meant for him to go do whatever the Lord has for him first. He just feels it's the right thing to do. Then when he's done with his mission, he'll come back and be ready to play football. I'm happy for him."

When he last spoke to Total Blue Sports after deciding to transfer to BYU, Uona hadn't yet decided to serve a mission but nevertheless talked about his faith.

"First of all for LDS athletes, we should be more than just football players," Uona said prior to enrolling at BYU. "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."

Currently Kaveinga is preparing himself to go out and share those values and principles he referred to.

"He's in the process of getting everything done with the bishop and all his paperwork done," said Lau. "I'm not sure when he's going to go, but it would be good to go soon so he can be back for the fall. That would be the best thing. I hope he [goes] no later than September. It would be good for him to have time to come back and work out before the fall."

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