“I can’t ever remember being this excited about anything," said Tuiloma just three days before he’ll embark on his official trip. “I’ve remained true to BYU and there has never been any doubt that it’s the right place for me even though I’ve never been there. I’ve dreamed about it a lot and now to finally go out there, wow, I’m just very excited.”
Travis Tuiloma is a 6-foot-3-inch, 290-pound defensive tackle recruit from Washburn Rural High School in Topeka, Kansas. He committed to BYU after the strong recommendation of his family members, who had forged a strong relationship with Cougar assistant coach Steve Kaufusi.
Due to his locale, as well as his lack of highlight films and attendance at camps and combines, there perhaps isn’t a commit that fans know less about than Tuiloma. Conversely, there isn’t a commit that perhaps know less about BYU than him.
“I committed to BYU because it felt right and my family felt that it was right," he related. “I know a lot of people think it’s strange since I’ve never been there and I really didn’t know anything about them when I committed. The feeling to go there was strong then and it’s gotten even stronger since that. BYU is the place I need to be.”
Other schools have come calling since his commit, but he summarily shut them all down, holding true to his BYU commit.
“I get letters all the time and coaches asking about me, but I don’t care, I’m going to BYU.”
Tuiloma will be vying for a spot at nose tackle while at BYU and is anxious to show what he can do. On the heels of a season where he was a consensus First-Team All-State selection, he’s feeling more confident about his game than ever.
“I can’t even tell you how much I’ve improved this year," he related. “I’m stronger, quicker, but most of all my technique is better, which helps my pursuit and in getting by blockers.”
His biggest complaint heading into this past season was the consistent double and triple teams he’d face as offenses made concerted efforts to run away from him. Due to some good coaching with his technique, Tuiloma was better able to get inside of blocks while pursuing plays that were run away from him.
“It’s all about using your hands," he explained. “That’s what I focused on. It’s very important to use your hands right as a defensive lineman. That helped and I’ve been in much better shape, so I’ve been able to pursue guys from behind and in the backfield. I had so much fun playing this past year because I really got better and got more involved.”
Recently Tuiloma received an in-home visit from Coaches Kaufusi and Hill. They met with him all night and left him with a great feeling of what is in store for him at BYU.
“It was great, they stayed until very late and we just talked about everything," he said. “Coaches stressed to me that keeping in shape is the best thing I can do in order to contribute and play right away. I’ve been doing that and I’m going to be in the best shape that I can be by the time I get there. I want to compete and show them that I can play right away.”
Since his commitment Tuiloma has kept in constant contact with the coaching staff, but hasn’t been able to make social connections with many of his future teammates.
“I’ve talked to Drew Phillips a few times on Facebook, but that’s pretty much it," he said. “That’s the biggest reason why I’m so excited to get there. I’ve heard all about the recruits we’re getting with this class and it will be great to finally have a chance to meet all of them.”
Tuiloma will still be only 17 years old when he arrives at BYU and is mulling the decision whether to play either one full year or two years before serving his planned mission. In being so young, he really believes that his best days are ahead of him.
“I feel so much more confident about my play now than I did before the season," he said. “I’m still really young, and knowing that Coach Kaufusi is such a great coach, I really feel that I can be a dominant nose tackle for them. I just have to keep working and never slacking off.”
While he’s been told what type of things he’ll be doing on his official trip, he really has no idea what to expect.
“I’ve been dreaming and thinking about BYU for a long time," he expressed. “Now that it’s finally here, I really wonder if it’s what I picture it to be. I’ve seen pictures and all that, but I really don’t know what to expect with how things look and how nice it is. I know it will be nice, real nice, but I just want to see it for real.”
Despite not seeing BYU firsthand, there has never been any doubt in his mind that it is the only place for him.
“It’s all about how I feel and what I know is right for me," he said about his BYU commitment. “I fully trust the coaches and know that they’re great men. I know BYU is right because I feel that it’s the right place for me, and that’s the most important thing. Going on my official trip will only further confirm that I know that I’m supposed to be there. I’m about as excited as you can be. I‘m so honored to have this opportunity to attend my church’s school to play football and to get a degree.”