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Excerpt from 'Cougar Converts': The LDS conversion of Sete Aulai

By Talo Steves

By Jedd Parkinson

By Matt Hodge

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Feb. 16 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

Having his BYU coaches there for his baptism was a special experience for Aulai. “One thing I remember was Coach (Paul) Tidwell was so happy to see that I was baptized that he was lost for words," Aulai recalled. "He didn't say much, but you could just see it in his face, and Coach (Lance) Reynolds was there and he was so happy, too. All the coaches were just so happy. They really didn't say much, but you could see it on their faces. Just by the look on their faces, that said everything. Coach (Steve) Kaufusi never would have thought that day would come, but things happen for a reason.

“You know, looking back from the time I played football at El Camino Junior College to now, my life has changed drastically. There has been such a change with me and I'm pretty sure you can tell from when you used to talk to me back then to when you talk to me now. Even Coach Kaufusi has seen the change in me. He said it's night and day from the Sete that first came to BYU to the Sete now after BYU. He said it's night and day, and I saw the change too.”

In the year following his baptism, Aulai again donned a helmet and pads as a member of the Utah Valley Thunder of the American Indoor Football Association, along with former BYU players Chris Bolden and Dustin Rykert. The team finished the season 11-3 and made the Western Division playoffs, but the highlight of 2009 for Sete Aulai came away from the football field. He met a girl from Washington (Megan Smart), and the two were sealed in the Seattle Washington Temple in November of 2009. ...

“You know, there was this Samoan kid from L.A. who had overcome his old ways, and even my parents have seen the change in me,” Aulai said. "They've see how my life has changed and the man that I've become, and it's because of my experiences at BYU and the gospel. It's had such an influence on me and even before I was baptized, the influence of the gospel had an influence on me because of the example of the players on the team. I saw these really good football players who were tough and dominated on the field but were returned missionaries. Those off-the-field experiences had an effect on my life. ...

“When someone says there is more to BYU than football, I know that's true. I didn't go on to the NFL, but there was something else in store for me and that's the reason why I feel I was supposed to go to BYU. Looking back, it's pretty clear what those reasons were and I'm blessed and grateful for that more than I could ever say.”

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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