Dick Harmon: Hiring of Atuaia will help prime BYU's pipeline to the Polynesian community
Both BYU and Utah have built their successful football programs on the backs of Polynesian football players. Both schools have excelled in finding and developing talent. They battle one another for many of the same recruits. Relationships are everything.
"We are a touchy-feely people," said Reid. "In order to reach an athlete, you have to go through his family. You have to find out who the decision makers are, and you must relate to them because that's where it all happens."
In the past six month, it appears BYU has "upped" its ante in this sweepstakes.
"And that's where this move is key for BYU," said Reid. "Mark is one of the great examples of what is important and should be important for Polynesian youth who grow up believing their one big chance to make it to the big time is to get in the NFL. The reality is, not everyone makes it to the NFL, and there has to be more for them to shoot for."
Atuaia did just that. He is the ultimate example.
One of Hawaii's most celebrated football stars, Atuaia's college career at BYU was up and down. I remember just after his LDS mission to Arizona, he was in Tucson preparing for the Copper Bowl when a frustrating practice led to him throwing down his helmet. Obviously growing from that experience, as a senior he made huge plays in extending a game-winning drive against Wyoming in the final WAC championship in Las Vegas in 1994.
That was the end of Atuaia's football career. He had every excuse to get a job and never return to school again. He got married and was on his way to becoming a dad to six children. Seven years after his final BYU season, Atuaia finished his degree at BYU-Hawaii in 2003 and returned to Provo to get his master's degree in public administration in 2009. He then volunteered to help coach BYU as an aide to offensive coordinator Anae and entered law school, where he earned his doctor of jurisprudence at J. Rueben Clark Law School in 2011.
Atuaia just finished working as an assistant to BYU's dean of student life, Vern Heperi.
"Mark proved how important it is to get an education, that it is a worthy and necessary goal, that there is life beyond football and education is a high priority," Reid said.
The Atuaia hire carries more weight than shuffling or creating titles on BYU's campus.
Next: BYU is directly targeting Polynesian LDS ties in Utah and the South Pacific.
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