BYU football: BYU, Brandon Doman continue cultivating recruits from American Samoa
PROVO — The first time Brandon Doman visited American Samoa — eight years ago — he and his wife were picking up their adopted son, a baby boy named Isaac Siaosi.
It was an unforgettable, emotional, and joyful experience for the Doman family. That was not long before Doman joined coach Bronco Mendenhall's staff at BYU.
Eight years later, in May, Doman returned to the island as the Cougars' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. And this time, it was a business trip.
"I went by myself," Doman said. "This was strictly BYU football recruiting."
The four-day whirlwind visit, beginning with a 12-hour flight covering more than 5,000 miles, marked the first time a Cougar football coach had made an official recruiting trip to American Samoa in many years.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff are looking for talented players in American Samoa, and looking to strengthen the Polynesian Pipeline that has bolstered the Cougar football program for decades, dating back to the 1960s.
"For BYU, coming on the island to recruit is only a natural thing for us to do. Our roots and our foundation of Polynesian culture has been here for years and years at BYU," Doman said. "We have 37 Polynesian kids on our team, more than anybody in the country. It had been a few years since we had been (to American Samoa). It was very important that we return to the island. There are fans, alumni and former players on that Island that are supportive of BYU football and BYU in general. If there's ever a place of great resource in the Polynesian community, that is the place. That was the reason for the trip out there. Hopefully we'll find a handful of kids over the next few years that will come here to BYU."
American Samoa — an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean — is crazy about football, Doman said.
"They play every day. The kids are walking to school in helmets and shoulder pads. When school's over at 3 o'clock, they practice football. It's an amazing thing. I don't know what rules and regulations they have over there. It's full-padded practice. It's a big deal."
The island is just 54 square miles and has a population of about 67,000. Doman told the people there that almost all of the residents in American Samoa could fit inside LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Despite its small size, American Samoa has sent a steady stream of players to colleges around the country and some of those players have landed in the NFL, including Troy Polamalu, Toniu Fonoti and Anton Palepoi.
"Last year, they sent 26 kids off the island to either Division I-AA, Division II or junior colleges," Doman said. "They probably had five Division I kids. There are only seven high schools out there. But between those schools, over 30 kids went off the island to play football.
"There were kids I was aware of that I was heading out to see," Doman continued. "But there are some kids that signed last year that were pretty good players that we never really got in the mix with. In hindsight, you look at who they were and how talented they were and it probably would have been nice to be in the mix with them."
Former Cougars that hail from American Samoa include Spencer and Gabriel Reid, Shaun Nua and Ifo Pili. The family of one BYU signee, linebacker Toloa'i Ho'Ching, who is currently serving a mission, is also from American Samoa, according to Doman.
"The (LDS) Church is so strong over there," Doman said. "About one-third of the people are members of the Church. For moms and dads, for their kid to play football and go off the island to get a degree and an education is important. Football is a vehicle for those kids, quite frankly, to get off the island and get a college education. They don't have many other avenues.
"I think football is one of their top three vehicles to get those kids an education."
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