BYU football: Uona Kaveinga at peace with Cougars

Published: Monday, July 18 2011 2:00 p.m. MDT

Linebacker Uona Kaveinga fights off a blocker during drills on day five of BYU fall football camp, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

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PROVO — Uona Kaveinga has yet to see a single rep during a game for the BYU football team. Nevertheless, tremendous praise is being heaped upon him by his fellow teammates and by his coaching staff.

This is almost unheard of from a coach such as Bronco Mendenhall, who is very selective with his praise of players, particularly defensive players.

“Uona has shown to be someone who is completely dedicated to our program,” said Mendenhall. “I like his attitude, I like how he practices, and he’s a play-maker and a leader. I’m very happy that he’s in our program.”

Mendenhall isn’t alone in that sentiment. Through practice and workout sessions he’s endeared himself to many of his defensive teammates.

“I love the feeling of having a great middle linebacker playing behind me,” said defensive lineman Romney Fuga. “I’ll have that with Uona. It makes what we’re doing fun, with how he plays.”

After signing with USC out of high school and spending two years in its program, he opted to transfer to BYU. The decision to transfer to BYU was due, in no small part, to a commitment he made to Mendenhall back in January 2008.

The Cougar head coach briefly related the reason why Kaveinga came back.

“He said that, 'I told you that I was coming, and I didn’t, and it bothered me,' and he came back," Mendenhall said. "He belongs here, and he’s a fantastic fit.”

Kaveinga had verbally committed to BYU, but after a hectic three-week period he opted to sign with the Trojans.

“BYU is the place for me,” he said of his decision to commit to the Cougars back in January 2008 following his official visit to BYU. “It’s the feeling that you get when you’re there, even more so than the football program. They have a great football program for sure, but the main reason I chose BYU is because of how I feel there when I’m there on my visits.”

What happened from then until signing day Feb. 6 of that year is one of the more interesting and frustrating recruit stories.

The coverage most recruits receive is a positive experience. It’s the first major media exposure for these top football prospects, and they love it. But in a select few cases, it can prove to be a negative experience, especially if the recruit starts to struggle with his commit decision. While Kaveinga was nothing but completely positive after his verbal commitment to BYU, that soon changed.

Rumors started to surface of him making an official trip to USC. After confirming with the family that he did make that trip, calls were made regarding his commit to BYU.

Kaveinga didn’t respond to any of these calls.

“I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I mean no one at all,” said the Lawndale, Calif., native. “It was a confusing time for me. I was young, and I really didn’t know how to best handle all of it, so I just decided to talk to no one because I really didn’t have anything to say to them.”

What happened to Kaveinga was the massive recruiting machine that is USC. The Trojans were accustomed to getting whomever they wanted during that period, and they wanted Uona Kaveinga.

After his commit to BYU, he made calls to both the USC and UCLA coaching staffs to inform them of his decision to sign with BYU. One seemed to care that he made his commit to BYU, the other didn’t.

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