High school football: Top Utah prep athletes sign to play college football (updated +video)

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 6 2013 9:20 a.m. MST

PJ Nu'usa chose SUU, and grinned as Matich read a text from T-bird coaches saying Nu'usa helped "make their signing class." Offensive and defensive lineman Sesi Salt and fullback and defensive end Sione Leaaetoa both signed with Snow College.

Bingham High held a signing ceremony at 8:30 a.m. During that ceremony, Lowell Lotulelei signed with Utah; Keegan Hicks signed with BYU; Joe Malanga and Hayden Weichers signed with Utah State; Durrant Miles signed with Boise State; Drake Miller signed with Hawaii; Tonga Manu signed with Snow and Joe Kaufusi signed with Eastern Arizona.

Sending players to the next level has become a common practice at Bingham and is something coach Dave Peck takes great pride in. Shortly after taking the head coaching spot at Bingham, Peck was determined to do everything possible to prepare each player for the rigors of college football — both on the field and in the classroom, and those efforts have born a lot of fruit.

"I love coaching, and even though a lot of the stuff is hard and frustrating, on days like today it's all worth it — more than worth it," Peck said on National Letter of Intent day. "The relationships you build with each of these players, the hard work and dedication they've shown — you grow so close to all of them to the point where you feel like they're your own children. To see that hard work and dedication get rewarded is really what it's all about and is my greatest joy as a football coach."

For the eight signees, they're grateful to have been a part of Peck's program and credit Bingham coaches for preparing them for the next level.

"Coach Peck has helped me a lot and I love him to death," Malanga said. "He's one of the best coaches in the nation along with the other coaches. They've helped me a lot and helped me become the man I am today."

Front and center among the Bingham signees was defensive tackle Lotulelei, who will attempt to follow in his brother Star's footsteps while at Utah.

"(Utah) has one of the best defensive lines in the country and really prepares its players for the NFL," Lowell said. "Not only that, but they really stress academics and help their players graduate. It's been real exciting to see (Star's) success there."

The seniors at Cottonwood High enjoyed a moment of celebration after a difficult and disappointing season. The Colts' big recruit, quarterback Cooper Bateman, was honored by teammates but has already graduated and is attending classes at Alabama.

Receiver Inoke Lotulelei signed with BYU but will serve a mission before enrolling.

"I grew up in a BYU household," he said smiling for pictures with his mom. "It got a little iffy for a while, but I'm really happy to be there. It took a while for them to offer me and I got a little offended. But it humbled me, and I'm really glad to be going to BYU and I've had a lot of support."

Lotulelei will submit his paperwork at the end of the month and said he talked with coaches Mendenhall and Anae last week about his options when he gets home.

"I'm super excited, but it does seem a little weird now," he said holding his signed paperwork.

Twins Desmond and Dorien Banks enjoyed their time playing high school football together, but they signed with different colleges Wednesday. Desmond Banks signed with Idaho, while Dorien Banks signed with Southern Utah University.

"Everything is changing at Idaho, and there are some really great things happening here," said Desmond, a cornerback. "I can also potentially graduate with my master's, and that was really attractive."

His brother said visiting SUU's campus in Cedar City helped him choose the T-birds.

"I like the environment and the fact that I can play football," said the linebacker smiling. "I'm going into engineering."

Elijah Tupai said he felt comfortable at the University of Hawaii.