Maka'afi Happy to be Latest Polynesian BYU RB

During Tom Lemming's meet-and-greet at BYU, which hosted some of the top football prospects in the state of Utah, a running back from Northridge High School was one of the athletes gathered in BYU's Cougar Room for the occasion. A few months later, he received a coveted offer - his top choice - and committed soon after.

Peni Maka'afi, a member of Tongan heritage, is one of the latest to commit to BYU's Cougar coaching staff. The running back out of Northridge High School looks to continue BYU's string of success with Polynesian running backs.

"At BYU I think I'll be a mixture of both Fui Vakapuna and Manase Tonga," said Maka'afi. "I know how to hit people and be aggressive, and at the same time I can run between the tackles. I can mix things up too like Harvey Unga and can bounce outside the tackles. I can also catch the ball out of the backfield, which is something you have to have in order to play in this offense. You have to be an all-around running back to succeed in this offense and can't just do [just] one thing good. You have to be a complete back, which is what I think I have the potential to be."

The 5-foot-11-inch, 215-pound Maka'afi is well-spoken and has a smile that just never seems to quit. Upon receiving an offer from the Cougar coaching staff, that smile got a little bigger. It didn't take long for the soon-to-be senior running back to make a decision on where he wanted to play college football.

"I wanted to go to BYU because the program is a great balance between developing my football skills and academics," said Maka'afi. "Also, the outlook on life, religion and the character development side of the program attracted me as well."

When Maka'afi learned he had received a scholarship offer, he simply couldn't believe what had happened. The first thing that went through his mind was: "Wow," Maka'afi with a slight laugh in his voice. "I really didn't think they would offer me this early because they were a little concerned about my academics. I told them that I would take care of it and I have. I've taken care of everything and we've come to a trust level that is high enough where they felt they could offer me. They trusted in me to be accountable for my academics and I fulfilled that trust by taking care of it."

Maka'afi, who is LDS, hasn't yet decided whether or not he'll serve a mission.

"I'm not sure if I want to serve a mission," said Maka'afi. "I feel I can have a good effect on people by living up to the high expectations here at BYU. I feel I can be a good example and serve the community here. When you come to BYU you represent more than just a football player, and I know that I can be that type of person that represents my family and my people. The type of players that come to BYU are those types of players, and I think that is why BYU get a lot of publicity when something bad does happen. Their standards are higher than any other college in the nation, and when someone makes a mistake it gets blown up all over the media, whereas it would be no big deal anywhere else."

Maka'afi's fellow teammate Chris Washington was on hand with Maka'afi on Wednesday at BYU's non-padded camp. The two were having a throwing contest to see which one could throw a football into a basket.

"Chris is a good kid," said Maka'afi. "He's always saying how he loves BYU. He's just a great kid and I love him. He plays his heart out on every play. He's smart and plays very physical and is a great blocker too. I think he runs around a 4.5 or 4.6 right now, which is really good. He's got great feet and good flexibility, which helps him with the position that he plays [safety]. He's also really strong and can hit and take a hit. He would be a great addition to BYU's defense."

While Washington has yet to choose which school he will commit to, Total Blue Sports will follow his recruitment as it progresses. In the meantime, BYU fans can welcome Peni Maka'afi as one of the newest Cougar commits.

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