Alani Fua is a big-time commit. At last count Fua held as many as 12 offers, which came from most of the Pac-10 programs and schools such as Ohio State. However, it wasn’t so long ago that the 6-foot-6-inch, 210-pound recruit from Oaks Christian High School wondered if he’d get any offers at all.
Top college offers usually accompany the top players at powerhouse schools such as Oaks Christian. As Fua started playing as a sophomore, he had yet to receive even one offer while all his teammates were having their mailboxes stuffed with letters from the top schools around the country.
That all changed as Fua entered his junior season. “BYU was the first to offer me and that really was a big thing for me," he related. “Just getting that offer and knowing that someone had noticed me and wanted to offer me a scholarship was really exciting at the time. It still is.”
The offers thereafter came flowing in, although Fua never really got caught up with the recruiting game. Fua is LDS and grew up with BYU well in mind. His older brother Sione was heavily recruited by BYU out of high school before ending up at Stanford, which made Fua and his family all the more familiar with BYU and what it has to offer.
“Both my brother and my dad supported me in my interest in BYU," he said. “While Sione was being recruited he really liked BYU and strongly considered them. My father has always liked BYU and what they have to offer as well. So they both really helped me in deciding that BYU was the best place for me.”
Another strong influence in Fua’s decision was his grandfather Glen Smith. “Alani’s grandfather went to BYU and always told both Alani and Sione that he’d pay for camp, but only BYU’s camp," related Alani’s father George. “So when Alani committed to BYU he may have been more excited than anyone.”
A couple of other close associates helped push Fua toward BYU. Through playing for Oaks Christian, Fua became very close friends with fellow Cougar commit Zac Stout, but what may not be as well known to fans is his friendship with Cougar signee Kyle Van Noy.
Fua was childhood friends with Van Noy and was able to reacquaint himself with him as Van Noy stayed with the Stout family last month. “It was great seeing Kyle again and just hanging out with him and Zac," related Fua. “Both of them were obviously bugging me to commit to BYU and it certainly helped with my decision.”
Stout, as one could readily imagine, is fully on board with Fua’s decision. “I think it’s great that Alani committed to BYU," Stout said right after Fua made his commitment known to coaches. “I was always hoping he would since he’s such a great player. He was great on defense last year and he’s been waiting patiently to play tight end. This summer he’s been working out against other [summer league] teams [that] just can’t cover him. He’s my good friend and we’re going to have a great time at BYU for sure.”
The main reason for Fua’s decision, however, came on the heels of his Junior Day visit to BYU in early June.
“I sort of knew when going out there that I’d end up committing to BYU," he explained. “But after the trip I had my mind made up.”
The clincher came by way of a meeting he had with Cougar head coach Bronco Mendenhall. “I remember just sitting there and I really felt strongly about that this was the place for me," he said. “Coach Mendenhall told me how strongly he felt that I needed to be at BYU and improve not only as a football player, but as a person in his program, and it really felt strong to me at the time that I needed to go to BYU.”
“That was really a special thing for him," added his father George about the meeting with Mendenhall. “He really made Alani feel that he needed to be there. Mendenhall told him that he strongly believed when talking to him and in observing him that he needed to be at BYU. Alani obviously felt that and that was the biggest thing in his decision.”
Fua went on to tour the facilities and the campus along with many of the other recruits during Junior Day. During his visit he was able to learn more about BYU’s business program, which impressed him. “I plan to major in business," he said. “So I know BYU has a top business school, so that was a big thing for me.”
Following his visit to BYU, the recruiting interest only increased. But for Fua, it didn’t really matter even when schools as big as Ohio State offered him a scholarship. “I don’t know, I really didn’t think of any other school at all after my visit on Junior Day," he explained. “I knew BYU was where I wanted to be, so it didn’t matter to me what other offers I got.”
So now that where he’s going to play football at is set, Fua will now have to make his decision on what side of the ball he’s going to play. He’s spent most of his time playing defensive end, but if this past summer is any indication, Fua could very well continue in the great tradition of tight ends at BYU.
“Coach Anae sends me letters all the time about me playing tight end for him," he said. “I like tight end a lot and I know how important the tight end position is to BYU’s offense and how much they use their tight ends.”
Although he’s certainly open to playing tight end, Fua would also be fine playing defensive end. “That’s the position I’m most comfortable with right now since I’ve been playing there most," he said. “I just want to play where they feel I’ll help the team most. It doesn’t really matter much.”
Fua has been in constant contact with defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi, who is considered a close friend of the family, but was originally contacted by assistant coach Barry Lamb. “I love all the coaches at BYU," said Fua. “They’ve been great throughout the process in explaining BYU to me and what it has to offer me.”
While preparing himself for his senior season and even for Division I football in the future, Fua aims to get a lot stronger. He already has more than enough speed for his lanky 6-foot-6-inch frame, as he was recently timed running a 4.6 forty, but he wants to get bigger.
“I want to get up to 240 or so by the time I get to BYU," he said. “Getting stronger will help me out at both tight end or at defensive end, so that’s my goal.”
Fua does not have definite mission plans at the time, but will certainly consider a mission following graduation from high school. With him being LDS, the religious aspect that BYU has to offer him played a big role in his decision.
“It’s a great environment for me since it’s my church’s school," he concluded. “Everything about BYU and what they have makes it the best place for me. I have so many friends and family there already. I love the coaches, the football program and the school and the great education I’ll get while there. It’s the best place for me and there’s really no doubt in my mind about that.”