PROVO — Simonte Vea isn't the first name fans think of when considering the strength of this year's defensive front for BYU. He's probably not even the second, third or fourth name, either.
He's there, though. Right there on the Cougar defense two-deep roster at the left end position.
"I wasn't expecting to be on the two-deep, but it's good that I'm there, I guess," said a very unassuming Vea. "I just work hard, and as long as I'm working as hard as I can, I'll be where I need to be."
Vea came to BYU as a walk-on. Not as a preferred walk-on, with his spot guaranteed; he had to earn his spot.
Following his LDS Church mission to Puebla, Mexico, Vea decided to give BYU a shot. He grew up attending Kahuku High School in Hawaii and spent a year at Western Arizona junior college before giving the Cougar program a shot.
"I knew guys like Malosi Te'o and other guys that played at Kahuku, and I decided to give it a shot," said the 5-11, 270 defensive tackle. "I heard about Bronco. I heard about what type of coach he was and decided that it was the place I needed to be after my mission."
Vea heard about how Mendenhall regards his walk-on players and decided to give it a shot. He showed up the first day, and began his try-outs for a spot on the team.
"I was nervous, real nervous," he said. "It's why I was at BYU. I wanted to be on the team because I love football and I really wanted to play for a coach like Bronco."
Vea ended up making the team in large part due to his work ethic. According to his position coach Steve Kaufusi, his daily effort that he puts forth is among the best he's ever coached.
"I wish I had all my guys working as hard as Simonte," said Kaufusi. "He just never quits. He's like a pit bull. He's a bit shorter and a bit smaller, but he won't quit coming. He won't quit trying, and that is what I want from all of my players."
Vea hasn't seen much game time entering his senior season. His stats show him playing in just five games with one recorded tackle against TCU last season.
His first two years in the program saw a lot of scout team work, preparing those who would play in games to be at their best.
"I really didn't mind it too much," said Vea about being on the scout team. "I just love to play football. I love this program and I'll do anything to help them. If that's with me being on scout team and never seeing the field, then that's fine. Of course I want to play, but I want to do what is best for the team."
This year, he looks to have that chance as he's someone Kaufusi feels confident in.
"He admittedly can't do a lot of the things that the other guys can, but he can do a lot," said Kaufusi. "He's earned his spot, and I think he's someone who can help us this year. He adds good depth, and an attitude. The guys know that if they're not willing to put forth the work, that Simonte is, and that helps us as a group. He pushes the other guys."
Where he'll be in the rotation come gametime and exactly how much time he sees is yet to be determined. Regardless, Vea is happy where he's at finishing out his senior season.
"I'm ready to go," he said. "I'm ready to go on defense, special teams or wherever. I've enjoyed being in the program, and how much I play won't change that. I'm just happy to be here and to be part of this."