Soi Shows Ferocious Polynesian Side to Tormenters

<B>BRIAN SOI</B>

BYU's top defensive prize recruit earned the respect of his teammates and coaches the hard way at a top Virginia prep school.

Away from home for the first time on an extended basis, the 6-4, 290-pound defensive tackle Brian Soi was academically ineligible to play for BYU and opted to attend Hargrave Military Academy to strengthen his chances of passing his ACT or SAT tests.

Indeed, top recruits from other major universities who are close to academic eligibility often opt for prep schools rather than lose two years attending junior colleges.

"I was homesick for about two weeks," recalled Soi. "I'm fine now, but I really don't want to go back."

When Soi first arrived in Hargrave in Virginia, he was the only Polynesian. For many of his teammates, he was the only Polynesian they had ever met.

"When I first got there, nobody was friendly and no one said ‘Hi' to me. I would walk up to them and say ‘Hi,' but no one would shake my hand or even speak to me. You know me, I just try to love everyone and be nice to everyone."

Feeling alone and uncomfortable in his new environment, Soi shook his head in disappointment at fellow students "trying to be hard;" a term used by inner city kids to describe a harsh, tough, non-friendly disposition or demeanor.

"The first day I was there I was trying to make new friends, but they would "mad dog" me and try to be all hard and gangstered out."

Soi continued, "I just thought to myself, ‘so that's how it is.' No one would sit by me when it was time to eat. I saw these two palagis (Caucasians) sitting by themselves in the cafeteria, so I went over and sat next to them. They were the only ones that would talk to me. Everyone was surprised when they saw me sit by them, but I don't care who you are or what you look like. That's not how I was raised. I was just trying to be nice to everyone."

Soon, some of his teammates came around and Soi felt as if he was making headway with some of his teammates. However, he soon learned their sincerity wasn't as it appeared.

"Some of the guys asked me what I was. I told them I was Samoan. One of the guys, a big guy (Dustin Moore) from Texas, said, ‘what, you're Samolian?' Everyone just laughed. It was just stupid."

Feeling shunned, humiliated and an outcast in an unfamiliar environment, Soi felt alone and totally isolated.

He endured the bitter treatment of fellow teammates and assistant coaches for the first week. With his anger and frustration growing daily, Soi kept it bottled inside and waited patiently. It was a matter of time before he unleashed his growing rage.

After all the orientations, preliminary workouts and marching drills were done, it was time to step on the football field.

"Everybody, the whole team in general and even the coaches, weren't expecting much from me."

Assembling his team, head coach Brunity lined his team up for one-on-one full contact hitting drills. Soi had only one thing on his mind as his heart pounded with pent up frustration and anger. He walked deliberately to the front of the line to face one of his tormenters, Dustin Moore, a 6-5, 330-pound black offensive linemen from Texas, another non-qualifier who had signed with Texas A&M.

"You know me, I'm a nice guy and try to be nice to everyone, but they didn't want to show me respect. I didn't show them respect after I knocked the first guy out on his back."

Moore found himself flat on his back. Like a prancing bull, Soi leaned over his fallen oppressor, got in his face as he shouted out a few colorful metaphors. "I swore at him right to his face and told him, ‘Get back up! Get right back up!"

Repeatedly, Soi put Moore flat on his back then turned his aggression to the other "big men" on campus.

Soi then called out Jeremy Plamor, another of his tormenters, who was a 6-5, 345-pound offensive guard who had signed with Arkansas. "I put him on the ground, then the next guy after that and then after that," Soi recalled.

After repeatedly besting everyone across the offensive line, head coach Brunity called Brian's mother, Pona Soi, to thank her for sending her son to play for him.

"Coach Brunity called and said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you for sending me your son,'" said Pona. "He said he couldn't believe Brian destroyed all the guys, all the offensive line and put them on their butts."

Having coached many players that went on to star at top Division I football teams in the east coast and south, coach Brunity paid Brian Soi a heartfelt compliment.

"He (coach Brunity) coached a player that went there that got drafted in the first round (NFL) last year. His name is Sullivan from Georgia, a defensive tackle. He said I'm better than he is. He said I was one of the meanest players he's ever coached."

Having earned the respect of players who had previously shunned him, Soi is now the "big man" on campus and is now the one everyone looks toward as their leader.

"When I first went there they were trying to be hard and unfriendly, but when I put them all on their backs they started talking to me like I was somebody they knew," said Soi. "It was only after I beat them that they started talking to me. They treated me like that because I was from Utah. They don't think we can play ball in Utah, but now they know."

Playing major college JV teams from major football programs back east, Hargrave Military College has amassed a 6-1 record, with the only loss West Virginia. One play Soi remembers came during the Virginia Tech JV game.

"I tackled Marcus Vick (younger brother of NFL quarterback Michael Vick) with one arm. He's really fast but we beat them 10 zero."

His on-the-field performances has already created ripples among major colleges back east and a number of assistant coaches have traveled to Hargrave to see what all the fuss is about.

"Everybody is looking at me. I just try and stay away from it because I already know where I want to be," said Soi. "A lot of the schools come by there, all the east coast schools, but I don't talk to them: Miami, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Virginia and everybody on the east coast. They can't talk to me now, but once I pass the test they can start recruiting me again. It starts over, but I'm set already. I just wanna stay right here at BYU."

Life still isn't easy, but it has become more tolerable now that he's gained the respect of his teammates. Although the persecution has stopped, he still has to deal with life in a military school complete with marching drills, fake guns and military uniforms.

"Man, we just have to march everywhere we go. March here, march there; march when we go to dinner; march when we go to lunch. We march when we go to the classroom and then we have to line up behind the chairs and then teacher goes, "Seat," and then we all sit down at once. They tell us what to do. We can't hang our heads; we can't have our shirts untucked or anything. Everything's gotta be clean and our beds have to be made perfect."

Like everything else in his young life, Soi has taken it all in stride.

"It's all right. I've been to a lot of better places than here," said Soi. "I don't know, I like it, I guess. It's just something that I have to do. They teach me tricks and they teach me everything. I already took the SAT and I think I did good. I never took the SAT before."

After a weeklong visit with family, Brian boarded a flight back to West Virginia, leaving his mother, father and family once again. It's all part of his life journey and he is making the best of it.

"It's (Hargrave) not the greatest place in the world, but I deserve it for slacking off in high school. I just have to do what I have to do right now so I can get to where I want to be, which is right here at BYU."

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