It's not that often that one finds sophomores with the talent to start both ways for a powerhouse the likes of 5-A Bingham High School, a school that has produced more than 10 Division I athletes in the last three years. But, that's exactly what Manoa Pikula
Now heading into his junior year of high school football, Pikula – a Polynesian of Tongan heritage – received a verbal offer from Brigham Young University.
"The offer from BYU is a blessing," Pikula said. "It's a great school and I'm Mormon, so it's a great opportunity for me. I'm excited about the offer and think it's a blessing for me and my family. I think it's just amazing."
After receiving his verbal offer from the Cougar staff, Pikula wanted to think it over with his family prior to pulling the trigger by making an early commitment to BYU. But before he could do so, his father had an idea he believed would help his son reach his potential even more.
"My dad said it was too early to make a decision on that right now," said Pikula. "My dad doesn't want me to take it for granted and wants me to work harder for it. He wanted me to set some goals that I needed to reach before I could make a commitment to BYU. He wants me to use this as motivation for me to get my grades up and work harder for it. He doesn't want me to commit [and] then take it for granted and get lazy.
"My dad wants me to work on getting my speed up and cut down on my weight. I'm working out over at SPARQ with Baker [Pritchard] and Harvey [Langi] right now. It's really motivating me because BYU is my number-one school, so right now I'm really motivated to do the things I need to do. I think it's going to take some time but it's really motivating me now. I think after my junior year I'll talk to them. Once I do that I know I'm going to be a Cougar."
Pikula's Miner teammate Baker Pritchard, who was the first to commit to BYU for the 2011 class, hopes his good friend and teammate will join him at BYU.
"In our state championship when my brother Iona was playing, Manoa's older brother Hau was the weakside linebacker next to him when my brother was a junior," said Baker. "We were both planning on getting both of our brothers' numbers that they wore while playing football. Iona was number 8 and Hau's number was 22 and we were both going to carry on the tradition of our brothers by wearing their numbers and playing linebacker. This is going to be exciting to play with him at BYU and keep our traditions going if he commits to BYU."
Recently Pikula participated in BYU's summer camp, where he learned quite a bit from the coaches throughout the day.
"I went to the BYU camp and at first I struggled with the one-on-ones," Pikula said. "After talking to the coaches they really helped me out by showing me things. Now I'm really good in my one-on-ones and coverages, so BYU's camp really did help me out a lot."
"He's just like me – he's physical," said Pritchard regarding Pikula. "But he's faster, quicker and has a stronger lower body. He's going to be really good for us starting as our middle linebacker next year.
"He's also a good leader. When he talks you can tell he's a leader, but more or less he's a quiet leader. Most of his leadership comes through his actions on the field."
Aside from BYU there are other schools that Pikula likes, such as Oregon and Colorado. Nevertheless, he has BYU as his top choice, thanks in part to the fact that he is LDS.
"I like how BYU puts everything together," Pikula said. "It's not just about football, but about education, family and church. I think that is what separates them from every other."
Recently BYU's coaches went down to Bingham High School to watch the team work out. Pikula wanted to use that opportunity to show those coaches what he could do.
"When they were there they watched us all lift, so I wanted to try and do my best," said Pikula. "When they came I put up 500 on my squats and maxed out on that. On my clean, I put up 255. I didn't max out but I was doing reps with 290, so I would probably be able to max out at 315 right now."
"I've played with [Pikula] all throughout little league and I've always been stronger than him, but not anymore," said Pritchard. "Upper body-wise I'm stronger than him, but when it comes to his lower body he's stronger. When he gets low, there isn't anybody that can move. He's unmovable. He squats around 495-500. If I would put him in a category I would put him as more of a physical linebacker. He is a finesse-type player but more or less a more physical linebacker. As a fullback he does really well and by the time we get into the season I think they'll use him both ways."
He played outside linebacker for the Miners of Bingham High School as a sophomore, but his on-field accomplishments don't stop there. This 6-foot-1-inch, 235-pound junior-to-be also started as a fullback on offense. We're talking about Manoa Pikula, a quick-footed athlete that brings toughness and leadership to the football field.