In one drill, a tight end and a linemen lined up across from an outside linebacker and a defensive linemen. When the whistle blew, the two sides collided and battled to see who could impose his will on the other. Vic So'oto lined up across from a linebacker, the ball was snapped and the linebacker was tossed on his back, end of story.
"That's why he's the terminator," said BYU fullback Manase Tonga. "He takes care of everybody. I mean, that's the man right there. I know he has Jonny Harline and Dan Coats in front of him, but he's a stud and he's a star. He just comes out to play every day and he's a real athlete, and when we're in the weight room he's getting bigger and stronger. Wait until he steps up and it's his turn."
During another blocking drill, the outside linebacker unfortunate enough to be paired up against So'oto received even greater punishment. The ball was snapped, So'oto fired off the line of scrimmage, locked the linebacker up and drove him into the ground. When the linebacker struggled to get to his feet to pursue running back Fui Vakapuna, So'oto met him with helmet and shoulder pads, sending him to his back again.
Senior offensive guard Jake Kuresa welcomed So'oto back to the huddle with an ear-to-ear smile, a high five and a laugh. For his tenacity, So'oto also received praise from running back Vakapuna.
"I think Vic is a baller," said Vakapuna. "He's the terminator. That's a nickname I heard he got when I was on my mission over there in Carlsbad. I heard he was the terminator and I'll take that because he is the terminator, banging heads, giving us the blocks that we need."
Vakapuna served his mission in the Carlsbad, California mission, which happened to be in the same area where the So'oto family lived. Big Vic and Sili So'oto often had Elder Vakapuna and his companion over to their house for dinner. At the time, BYU was recruiting their son and the two became close friends.
"He's a great example too," said Vakapuna. "When I was out in the mission field he was a good example to all the LDS people in the community. Being a Mormon and seeing him succeed, he will be a really good example to all the kids back in Carlsbad. He's just an overall good person and as a player he's a punisher."
Heading into his sophomore year, So'oto is enjoying his experience at BYU. The campus, the coaches, playing under Coach Mendenhall and bonding with new friends on both sides of the ball made So'oto's time at BYU all the greater.
"Right now I feel more conditioned than last year," So'oto said. "I feel a lot stronger and I'm more used to the coaches and the offense. I'm more used to the weather, the altitude and everything is just better. Academically, I'm used to the schooling and I just love being here."
Both Vic So'oto and Russell Tialavea will stay in Provo for the spring and summer. Their goal is to continue working hard to improve themselves so they can help their team be successful next season.
"I don't I'll be going home after the spring and through the summer. I think me and Russell will just stay here and continue conditioning and running to get better for BYU and ourselves. I'm glad to see Russell out there in his pads and finally back."
So'oto received quite a few reps with both the first and second team. He definitely has the speed to help stretch the defense. He proved that a few times last Monday and Tuesday when he caught long passes from quarterback John Beck.
"I don't know if the coaches actually know my speed," chuckled So'oto. "They think of me more as a run blocking, hardcore hitting tight end but I've got my finesse too. I can run and they don't know it yet but we'll see what happens when we run our forties.
"This year I feel I'm a better all around player. so are the other tight ends like Harline, Coats and Andrew George so I'll have to compete with them and just try and get as much playing wherever I can. If it's on special teams, blocking or if they want me to run some routes, great! I'm just here to serve and help BYU as best I can."