MURRAY, Utah — His name is Siale Fakailoatonga. While the name is perhaps unfamiliar to some, and hard to pronounce for others, it’s a name local football fans should be familiarizing themselves with.
Having just completed his sophomore year at Cottonwood High School, Fakailoatonga now holds offers from both Utah and from BYU, with many more likely on their way.
It all started during Utah’s "Ute Shoot" held earlier this month on the university's campus. It’s essentially a team skills competition which features a 7-on-7 passing competition.
It was after completion of the Colt’s first 7-on-7 matchup when a member of Cottonwood’s coaching staff took Fakailoatonga aside to give him some surprising news.
“He told me that one of the Ute coaches came up to him to let me know that he’d be watching me closely for the rest of the day,” said the 6-foot-4, 215-pound tight end-defensive end prospect. “I wanted to know why and I started to get real nervous, but then he just told me to play my best, so I did.”
Shortly after completion of the one-day event, Fakailoatonga was informed by Ute head coach Kyle Whittingham that he had an offer to play there.
“I was excited and surprised, probably more surprised than anything,” he said about the offer. “I definitely wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t even play the whole season as a sophomore, but I guess they really liked what they saw from me at the Ute Shoot.”
It’s not hurting Fakailoatonga’s cause having a quarterback such as Cooper Bateman throwing him the football during these tournaments. Bateman, much like Fakailoatonga, has early offers from both Utah and BYU, along with Utah State. “Cooper is an awesome quarterback, so it definitely helps me with him throwing the ball to me,” he said.
A couple of weeks later, Cooper and Fakailoatonga took their show down to Provo to perform at BYU’s own 7-on-7 tournament. Same type of tournament and the same results.
“They had a lot of schools down there for BYU’s tournament, but we did really well,” he said. “I was contacted by coach (Bronco) Mendenhall shortly after the tournament, and he told me that he wanted to offer me a scholarship as well. It was amazing to get just that offer from Utah, but now to have both BYU and Utah offer me. I never thought that would happen, at least not happen this early.”
Having grown up in Utah, Fakailoatonga has become very familiar with both BYU and Utah. He also has cousins that play for both schools, with Star Lotulelei at Utah and Spencer Hafoka at BYU.
“I like both schools and I’m a fan of both teams,” he said. “I know that’s kind of weird to say because they’re rivals and all that, but I seriously like both of them about the same. I’d love to play for either of them when I go to college.”
Utah coaches have offered him as both a tight end and as a defensive end.
“I’d have to get a lot bigger to play defense, but I’m open to it,” he said. “I think with Norm Chow there, with how he uses the tight ends, that playing tight end will be a great opportunity for me. I really like how Utah plays, and I love going up there and being with the coaches there. I also like that they‘re fine with me serving a mission.”
BYU coaches, meanwhile, have just mentioned to him regarding an opportunity to play tight end.
“Playing tight end at BYU is obviously a great opportunity,” he said. “I’ve come to know coach (Lance) Reynolds there and we’ve talked a lot. I really like him, and he’s told me about how playing tight end at BYU is unlike playing tight end anywhere else with how they use them in their offense.”
With Fakailoatonga just prepping to start his junior season, he isn’t thinking all that seriously where he’s going to play in college. He does know that with Bateman, who is already receiving a lot of out-of-state attention, that many schools should be coming by to watch Cottonwood play during the coming years.
“I’m just so grateful to have great schools like Utah and BYU offer me already and hopefully I can impress some other schools as well,” he said. “Hopefully I can get some more attention. That would be great. We’ll see how it all works out and who is interested a year from now. I’ll then probably start deciding where I want to play.”
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company