It’s always hard losing a football game, especially when it’s close. It’s even harder when that loss ends one’s season, as Trajan Pili experienced last Thursday in Centennial High School’s close loss to Palo Verde High School.
“It was going pretty well,” Pili said. “We made the playoffs for the second year in a row. We won our first game but then we came up short at the last second 20-23 in our second game.”
Pili’s talents are used on both sides of the ball for Centennial High School. On offense, he is a versatile tight end with a linebacker’s mentality while blocking.
“We run a pro-set offense where we like to run the ball most of the time,” Pili said. “We use physical players to block and help open up the holes for the running backs, but at the same time we like to keep the defense off balance or catch them off guard with passes and fades to the end zone.”
As a tight end, Pili caught three touchdown passes and had 58 receiving yards. However, his 79 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hurries, five tackles for a loss and three fumble recoveries in 11 games in the Northwest Conference is what really stands out.
“It’s like the SEC of Las Vegas,” Pili said regarding the Northwest Conference.
Now, these numbers would be impressive from a linebacker’s standpoint. However, Pili didn’t produce these numbers from his natural position, but by playing out of position as a defensive end.
“I played defensive end because that’s where my team needed me,” he said. “I played outside backer on a few of our sets depending on the team, but most of the time I played defensive end.”
Overall Pili feels his junior season was a successful one.
“I feel I did pretty good,” said Pili. “I feel I did the best I could playing both sides of the ball as a tight end and defensive end. As a tight end I was selected as an all-conference player. I was actually selected for all-conference as a tight end and as a defensive end.”
“He is passionate for the game and leads his team with a confidence and spirit that enables him to be a playmaker on the field,” said his mother Becky. “He had a great season and finished it off by being selected to the all-conference teams for both DE and TE.”
At BYU, the versatile Trajan Pili will play on Coach Mendenhall’s defense, where he will be expected to bring that tough, physical mentality to bear at his natural position.
“I feel I could have made more plays as a linebacker this past season,” Pili said. “My team needed me at d-end just to go as far as we did this year, so I'm happy to do whatever is needed to help the team.”
“He comes from a long line of football family and has watched cousins and uncles live their dreams,” said Becky. “He is determined to be the best he can be on and off the field so one day his dreams and goals will become his reality.”
Firmly committed to BYU, Pili is still receiving some interest from Pac-12 and Big-10 schools.
“Yeah, I'm getting some interest from Stanford, Utah and Oregon,” he said. “Then there’s Nebraska and some letters from USC. I think they’re just testing to see how firm on my commit I am. I think that’s why they’re doing that. They haven’t really contacted my coach or anything like that.
“Mostly it’s through emails and letters. Oregon sends me emails every now and then and also sends me letters as well. Nebraska and Stanford have also sent me letters too. It makes me feel good knowing that others have recognized my hard work and that it’s paying off, but I already know where I want to go and have made that commitment to BYU.”
As a sophomore, Pili was a standout prospect and performer at Alema Te’o’s All-Poly Camp. Last week a fellow camp performer out of South Carolina made the claim that former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky – who has been charged with sexually abusing children – coached him at the camp. However, no coach from Penn State has ever participated in or stepped foot at the camp.
“That’s crazy,” Pili said. “I have no recollection of there ever being a coach from Penn State there. No, there hasn’t been a single one.”
In past years, Pili has played both basketball and football, but he will not continue that trend this year.
“This will be the first time that I won’t play basketball,” Pili said. “I’m going to try and do some offseason training with a speed and strength trainer to get ready for spring football. I believe that the faster you get, the more you’re able to be involved in more plays. Your strength can only take you so far when you’re running downfield, but once you have your speed, then you can be a big playmaker on the field everywhere.”
Joining Pili at Centennial High School next year will be his younger brother Keenan.
“I have two younger brothers,” Pili said. “I have a 14-year-old brother named Keenan, who is a basketball player and a football player. He plays safety and he’ll be a freshman in high school, but he really likes basketball. Then I have a 10-year-old brother named Logan and he’s just a football player.”
“As Trajan said, Keenan plays both basketball and football but Keenan's passion is basketball,” said Becky. “He will be in high school next year and plays safety in football, whereas Logan is a crackup and lives and breathes football.”
In fact, little Logan has his sights on following in Tajan’s footsteps.
“He's only 10 but he loves middle linebacker and has already set his goals very high,” Becky said. “He keeps watching the movie ‘The Blind Side’ and said he can't wait until the BYU coaches come to our house because he's going to ask ‘What's in it for me?’ just like in that movie. It's so cute.
“Trajan's brothers look up to him a lot and are lucky to have such a great example as Trajan for an older brother. Trajan always says his life is complete with faith, family, and football.”
BYU fans and Cougar coaches will have to wait a few years before future prospects like Keenan and Logan possibly join BYU’s ranks. Until then, they’ll just have to settle for their big brother and one of Nevada’s best in Trajan, who still has one more year of high school football left to play.
“BYU fans can expect a show, that’s for sure,” Pili said. “I get very intense and I get very excited when I make plays on the field and try to connect with the fans in the stands to get them excited. As a football player, knowing that the audience is there to support you helps you a lot to get through the tough times. I'm excited to connect to the passion of BYU fans. I know I have one more year of high school, but I'm excited to get up there.”