Kondolo's visit exceeds expectations

Fresno City College offensive lineman Chongo Kondolo hopped a flight to Provo, Utah for an official visit last week. When he arrived at the Salt Lake City airport, he was picked up by Coach Weber, who drove him down to Happy Valley for a firsthand look at what a BYU scholarship would provide him.

Last Friday, Chongo Kondolo received an education on BYU and a good understanding of the campus environment.

"I flew in there Friday morning," Kondolo said. "It's a nice clean place. That's the first thing I noticed. It's just clean and it's surrounded by mountains. It's just a beautiful place to be at.

"It was a little bit sunny at first and the day cleared. Then on Saturday it was cool. It was really cold, oh my goodness! It started snowing a little bit. Then on Sunday it was the coldest and it was 27 degrees and there was snow everywhere. I was thinking, ‘I gotta get used to this though!' It was cold man."

Nestled up against the base of the Wasatch Mountains, BYU's campus experiences all four seasons.

"That's what they told me," Kondolo said. "I really like how it was just surrounded by mountains and it was just a calm place. That's what I really liked, and you would have to really go out and find trouble. It's just such a calm place to be."

While at BYU, Kondolo got a sense of what it's like to be on campus.

"The people are friendly, you know," Kondolo said. "I saw a lot of unity and friendliness. The whole campus just seemed unified because everybody just seems to kind of have the same focus of why they're there. They all have the same goals and focus. It was nice, and like I said, everyone was friendly."

Along with meeting some of the locals around campus, Kondolo also met many of BYU's coaches.

"The people there are really, really friendly," he said. "The coaches would stop and kind of face me just to get to know me. They actually care about the individual more than just football. A lot of our talks had nothing to do with football, and I really liked that because they tried to get to know me as a person."

And as is customary on official visits, Kondolo had a personal visit with head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

"He really wanted to get to know me as a person. He's very in touch with God, and I can tell he has a lot of pride in what BYU stands for, a lot of pride."

But it was Coach Weber that Kondolo spent most of his time with.

"Coach Weber, the o-line coach, is the one that picked me up at the airport," said Kondolo. "I got to spend a lot of time with him because most of the players were studying for finals. I got a chance to know him a little better and know what kind of a person he is. The only time I was actually with the players was at night."

Coach Weber showed Kondolo some of the important parts campus.

"We went to eat first, but then we went to the football office and talked to the academic advisors," Kondolo said. "They showed me a plan on how they help college students do good, and they gave me advice on how to do good in school. They showed me the plan on who would be helping me and [the Student Athletic Building] and the computer labs and all that."

In a previous interview, Kondolo mentioned how academic support was one of the primary things he was going to be looking for in a university.

"It definitely exceeded my expectations as far as academic help," Kondolo said. "They talked about majors and what majors they have that can help me. They have great majors there and showed me statistics about how many people get jobs and the kinds of salaries they get coming out of BYU. People usually have higher salaries coming out of BYU than other universities with a degree. I learned a lot about how important a BYU degree is."

Along with gaining an understanding of BYU's academic support, Kondolo was shown the football facilities.

"Their facilities are nice and they have a huge indoor practice facility," said Kondolo. "You can put a plane in that indoor facility. That's how big it is. They also have a good weight room and a good weight program. I talked to their strength and conditioning coach and he told me what they do. He gave me some advice and I talked to some of his assistants, and they have a good workout program and a nice facility. I was definitely impressed."

In addition, Kondolo was shown the legendary LaVell Edwards Stadium.

"We went to the stadium and I got a chance to walk around on the field a little bit," he said. "We went up into the press box and it's a nice view of the mountains up there. You got a chance to see the mountains from up there. Provo is nice!"

Later, Kondolo was able to visit with a few of the players to get a balanced perspective of life at BYU.

"I talk to a few LDS players and a non-LDS player so I could get a good perspective," said Kondolo. "I'm a non-LDS player myself, so it was good to talk to another non-LDS player to kind of get both sides."

The non-LDS player that Kondolo met with was center Blair Tushaus, who came to BYU in 2010. Tushaus, who is Catholic, gave his thoughts about the BYU experience.

"He was telling me that he can depend on all of his teammates, that every single one of them will be there for him, and that he can go to them for anything and they'll help him," Kondolo said about his meeting with Tushaus. "He said that BYU is a really good place to be and that they'll help you with success. He had a lot of good things to say about the program and Coach Weber.

"Then I got to hang out with him and another one of their players who is a guard. They were roommates, so I got talk with him. His name is Brock [Stringham] and he was big. He pretty much just said the same thing. He said they still have fun, but there's no alcohol or anything bad like that but clean fun. I got a sense that it's just a nice place to be where you can enjoy the college experience without all the negative things that can come with it."

Then on Saturday night, Kondolo was taken to watch BYU come from behind to beat Utah 61-58 among the rowdy fans at the Marriott Center.

"I got a chance to see BYU play in a basketball game and that was a lot of fun," said Kondolo. "That was one of the highlights of my trip out there. We had a good time out there and everyone was excited. BYU was playing Utah. It was an exciting environment and BYU was very competitive."

Sitting among the fans as a visitor, Kondolo witnessed firsthand the nature of the BYU vs. Utah rivalry.

"Now that's a rivalry, and you could see the rivalry in the stands," said Kondolo who began to chuckle. "The Utah fans were swearing a little bit, but not the BYU fans. As soon as the Utah fans started swearing, the BYU fans would turn around and start booing them."

Kondolo's chuckle soon turned into a full-on laugh as he continued to tell the story.

"As soon as a Utah fan would swear, you would hear, ‘Boo, boo!' and the entre crowd just booed as soon as they would hear swearing. They just set them up. One of the Utah fans said, ‘Man, this ain't right!' because the whole crowd turned on him and the Utah section. It's a rivalry, but it just showed that Utah doesn't really like BYU. BYU fans never swore back. You don't see that happen that much at the college level. They've got some class."

Kondolo saw that not only are BYU's fan different than most, but so are the players on the football team.

"Mostly just what they do off the field, that was the difference," said Kondolo. "BYU has around 40 married players, so it was a different experience and the environment sort of forces you to grow as a person. The players are a lot more mature as a team and the focus of life is different. They're not just focused on football, but are focused on the importance of life."

Then on Sunday he boarded a plane back to California with a clearer view of his options.

"Oh man, my experience there just thinking through it is probably an eight or a nine," he said. "I'm starting to see more the positives of going there, so probably an eight or a nine. I've only taken two visits, so when I take more that may change.

"I saw a little more and all of my questions were answered pretty much. Every one of my questions were answered by going there. That definitely raised their stock and they showed me more than I was expecting. It was a good trip and I enjoyed it."

This was Kondolo's second official visit, with his first being Illinois. He currently has one more scheduled.

"I have Maryland on January 25, so now when I get back I just want to see what my options are before I fill in my last two visits," said Kondolo. "Maryland might be my last visit when everyone gets back to school. That's why it's so late. After that I'll probably make my decision."

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