Before the Weekend
"The Stanford coaches just left, actually. We just talked about a lot of different things: football, the future, my future, the future of the football team," Fua reported last Thursday night. "My mom and my brother came up with me on my [Stanford] official visit. My dad couldn't make it. So it was good for my dad to meet Coach Walt Harris and Coach [Tom] Freeman."
The Cardinal were an also-ran in the Sione Fua sweepstakes through much of 2005 for the Encino (Calif.) Crespi Carmelite High School senior. Fua had strong interest in hometown Pac-10 powers USC and UCLA, while BYU was a strong spiritual fit for the LDS student-athlete. One dark cloud hanging over Stanford was the admissions prospects for Fua, who sported a strong GPA but a 1510 from his junior year on the new SAT. His retake of the standardized test during his senior year netted him a big bounce with a 1680 score. From that moment, forward, Stanford became a much more serious contender.
"I got accepted to the school about three weeks ago," he beams. "It was exciting, just to be able to get into Stanford. Everybody at my school congratulated me. It was a big deal."
Fua's official visit to The Farm the weekend of January 13 further strengthened the value of Cardinal's educational opportunity.
"I saw how much further ahead Stanford is with their academics. They are truly world class," he explains. "It was the professors and the players. It really hit me how Stanford is just so far ahead of everybody else I'm looking at."
With three of his five allowed official visits behind him - to Stanford (1/13), BYU (1/6) and California (12/16) - Fua had an idea of what would shape his decision and how those three schools stacked up.
"Right now I'm just basing things off my feelings from the visit, the school's academics and the team camaraderie - how teammates interact," he asserts. Fua stacked up the best in those three categories:
- Gut feeling - "Stanford and BYU. I had the best feeling coming out of those two places. They had that family feeling. The player hosts were great. Everybody was just nice."
- Academics - "Stanford definitely has the best academics, without a doubt. If I had to put somebody second, it would be Cal."
- Teammates - "BYU had the best camaraderie. It's hard to explain."
Add that all up, and it looked like a battle between the Cardinal and Cougars. But a wild card remained in the picture...
"I would probably say I have a top three. Cal is in there also," Fua offers. "The one thing that made the Cal trip special for me was to be with my cousin, Marvin Philip."
"Marvin has been talking to me about Cal for a long time," the recruit continues. "He paved a path for me and really created my interest."
Only one remaining official visit separated Fua from his college decision. It was off to Eugene to see the Oregon Ducks.
"I've pretty much told the other schools that these are my four schools," Fua maintains. "I'll have my decision by next week - I'm pretty positive - after visiting this last school. I'll have to sit down and really contemplate what is best for my next five years."
After the Weekend
Back from Oregon, the picture has changed dramatically for Fua. His top three saw two drop while the Ducks rose quickly.
"I really liked it over there," reports 6'2" 290-pound recruit of Eugene. "I went there not knowing what to expect. I was surprised when I met the coaches. They were great. And they have pretty good academics. Oregon has a good business school, and that's what I'm interested in studying. There are a lot of Mormon kids on the team, and they have a good Mormon community around there."
Fua also presents a slightly revised approach to making his college selection.
"It's going to be based on academics, the spiritual side and the football side of each school," he maintains. "That what it will come down to."
"Stanford is the highest in academics. BYU is the highest on the spiritual side. Oregon is highest in football," Fua declares. "It's going to be hard to weigh out."
The two-way lineman also admits that two of his "final four" schools have moved a little behind the others.
"Yeah, Stanford and Oregon look good. I still like BYU a little bit, but Oregon just really impressed me," Fua offers. "And I haven't talked as much with Cal lately. They're all still in it, though. It's still up in the air between the four schools."
Despite his previous proclamation that he was focused on just four schools for his final decision, the earth moved for Fua on Monday with a fifth contender coming back from the dead. USC found out Monday that Steve Schilling, the five-star offensive lineman ranked by Scout.com as the #1 overall prospect in the West region, dropped them from his list. Schilling gave the Trojans the boot fresh off his official visit to the Los Angeles campus, which rocked Pete Carroll's offensive line recruiting board.
While Fua is slotted by Scout.com (and recruited by Stanford) as a defensive tackle, he has been recruited by USC as an interior offensive lineman. It was no coincidence that the day Schilling fell off their map, the Trojans gave Fua a call out of the blue.
"SC just started calling me today," Fua told The Bootleg on Monday evening. "They're getting interested in me again. I don't know how that will play out."
"The only thing with SC - you know that I'm going on a mission, right? - SC wasn't going to let me go on my mission," the recruit relates. "It's very important to me and my parents that I go on my mission. I told [USC] that, and they backed off."
With Pete Carroll calling up the Crespi lineman once again this week, the big question is clear. Are the Trojans looking to still sell Fua to come to USC and not take his mission, or are they needy enough at this point in the recruiting calendar to allow him take the two-year break for his LDS religious service?
"If they're just trying to convince me to not go on my mission, then their coming back into the picture will be just another bump in the road," Fua states. "But if they will offer me without a condition on my mission, then that will just make things more complicated than they are already. I've always liked USC a lot."
To speak more bluntly, the Trojans have been the longtime prohibitive favorite of Sione Fua. His insistence on taking his Mormon mission terminated that relationship several months ago, and that barrier is apparently still imposing today. Fua did not back down then and says he will not now. The proverbial ball is back in Pete Carroll's court. The four-star recruit is probably USC's to lose, but will they take him with the recognition that he will not provide much help until the 2009 or 2010 season?
"I was trying to make a decision by the end of the week, but it depends on SC right now," Fua says.
Fua is looking at an official visit to Los Angeles this weekend, where the fateful conversation may take place on the issue of his Mormon mission. For Stanford and Oregon, the fate of Fua may rest completely outside their control. Like much in college football these days, it is Pete Carroll's call.
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