Malone Mataele was on hand at Rice-Eccles Stadium last Saturday to see another wild finish between Utah and BYU. The four-star ATH out of Santa Margarita Catholic in Santa Margarita, California, attended the game with his dad and cousin, and said he really enjoyed the experience.
“I got there on Saturday,” he said. “I got there kind of late, so I didn’t really get a chance to meet the coaches and get on the field like some of the other recruits. But [I] just kind of came in, sat down and enjoyed the game with my dad and my cousin. And after the game, I got to come on to the field and take some pics. And it was a good experience, again, to walk around on the field and meet some of the players on the teams and get to reconnect with some of the coaches. And then afterwards, [I] got a chance to head over to the locker room and sing along with the fight song, and get pretty hyped up with those guys. But definitely, I think overall it was a good experience.
“The stadium is great, I love the stadium. The game overall, crazy game. I feel like it’s always a crazy game when Utah and BYU face off, but definitely it was an exciting game to watch. [I was surprised by] the overall atmosphere. I think pretty much the whole state of Utah showed up there for that game. It was packed, it was loud and it was a good experience. I talked with the cornerbacks coach that offered me, Coach Shah. I talked to Coach Roderick, Coach Lewis Powell [and] head coach, Coach Whittingham, and that’s pretty much it. It wasn’t too big, just kind of catching up, about how I’m doing, how school’s going.
“I talked to Coach Roderick, he’s the guy that recruits my area. [He] basically told me that they’re going to probably [come see me play] later around league, when league starts for us [around the] playoffs, they’ll come out and catch one of my games.”
Alhough Malone (whose name is pronounced MAH-low-nay) only saw the stadium and locker room on Saturday, he’s made previous trips to tour the facility and other parts of the campus. “I’ve been up [to Utah] actually a couple times,” he said. “The times I went before, I got a chance to see pretty much everything in the entire facilities. I got a chance to see some of the school departments. Those trips that I took were definitely good trips, and I got a chance to see what Utah has to offer.”
The 6-foot, 175 pound prospect said his dad was also impressed by the electric rivalry atmosphere, and thinks highly of Utah’s coaching staff and program. “My dad likes it a lot, I think that he definitely likes it a lot,” Mataele said. “Likes the campus, likes the coaches, overall likes the state of Utah, so I think he likes it. From what I saw, he really enjoyed the game. Getting a chance to be up close and personal, and be in that kind of atmosphere was kind of something new to him, so definitely he liked that a lot. We were right [there], third row on the 30-yard line. We were right directly next to the student section. [It was fun], it was crazy, yeah.”
After recapping his visit, Mataele talked about what he likes about the Utes. “From what I’ve seen, I like the way they play their players,” he said. “If you make a big play, they’re going to give you another opportunity to make another big play. If you screw up, mess up, they’re going to pull you out, coach you up, get you back in there. So that’s what I like. [At Utah], I have the opportunity to showcase what I have, and that’s the biggest thing that I like about Utah. I got offered to play corner (defensive back) and wide receiver.”
Mataele is a 2018 recruit, so he still has a ways to go in the recruiting process. He said he’s keeping his options open as he plays out his junior year of high school football. “I’m probably just going to play it by ear and see what opens up for me, but as of now I’m pretty focused on the season, and getting done with this season, and then, heading into winter and spring, [getting] back to my recruiting. As of now … I don’t have a top schools list. Right now I’m open with my recruiting, [I’m] pretty neutral with all the schools I have offers from. I’m not too sure yet [when I’ll commit], but I think I’ll slowly start coming to Top 10, Top 5. Probably somewhere along the lines of this winter coming up, or in springtime, going into my senior year.”
As the conversation wound down, Mataele discussed what he’s looking for in a school. “Me personally, I’d just like a chance to meet face-to-face with the coaches, to see what they have to offer, what kind of people they are,” he said. “‘Cause those are the guys I’m going to be potentially playing for in the future. Secondly, I’d say academic programs, I want to go somewhere that would have a good solid academic program that could ensure me for success if football doesn’t work out. And then lastly I’d say would be playing time and what position I’d be playing. My goal right now is to go into college and be a two-way player. That’s my goal. So definitely somewhere where I can maximize my opportunities would be the place for me.”
Mataele is also familiar with Utah’s rival, having received an offer from the Cougars’ former coaching staff, though he’s trying to confirm whether that offer still stands … Not only that, he’s relatives with two of the current players, Butch Pau’u and Tevita Mounga. “I got a chance to talk to some relatives I had on BYU’s football team after the game,” Mataele said. “And I got a chance to talk to a couple coaches as well that have been recruiting me for some time now” … Alhough Mataele is a member of the LDS Church, he says that “as of now, I will not be going on a mission.”