Photo provided by BYU
BYU's Bernard Afutiti began practice a week late.

All-American defensive end Bernard Afutiti found a way out of junior college summer limbo.

It's a place juco players on their way to a Division I programs find themselves in summertime. It features missing transcripts, absent community college personnel on vacations, backup workers unable to function, phones that ring without human voices on the other end, professors that haven't posted grades or filed final papers, closed doors and an endless chain of frustration.

Bernard found a way to cut through all the tape and spent his first week in BYU's football camp after missing the initial week of two a days.

He's lucky. His teammate at Mount San Antonio, Utah-bound All-America receiver Aiona Key, has missed his second week of Kyle Whittingham's camp, and inquiries about his status, just like Afutiti that first week in Provo, are becoming a soap opera.

A third Afutiti teammate, Kevin Craft, is already vying for a starting spot at UCLA after Ben Olson injured his foot more than a week ago.

So, what gives?

"It's just very, very difficult to get things done," said BYU recruiting coordinator Paul Tidwell. "Sometimes people simply are not around to push things through at some of these junior colleges, it's summer and they're on vacations. Their timetable isn't the same as the timetable for the athlete."

Afutiti, who had scholarship offers from USC, Oregon State, Arizona State, Michigan, UTEP and Ohio State, came to Provo this summer with his wife Crystal and son Zak. He soon found that his papers from Mount San Antonio Community College didn't follow him.

Just before BYU's camp started, Afutiti decided he'd had enough and he'd do something about it.

Actually, he confesses, like many men, his wife decided to push him to do something about it — go get in some faces.

"It was very frustrating, actually," said Afutiti, who had USC chasing him to the wire on signing day for his ability to get after quarterbacks. If you were a clerk at a college, well, one can imagine.

"The biggest thing was me being there and getting in their face to get things done. They kept telling me they had to go through procedure after procedure and this person had to go through this person and I was told it was a matter of time. But just being in their face stirred things up a lot.

"To be honest with you, if I hadn't done that, I don't think I'd be here right now."

And Mendenhall is pleased he is. While Afutiti has got a lot of catching up to do, he showed his speed — the trait that made him such a high profile recruit — during Saturday's 70-play scrimmage. Lining up in his defensive end position, Afutiti dropped back into zone pass coverage 10-15- yards down field and got a paw on a pass from Kurt McEuen.

It was impressive.

"I've been impressed," Mendenhall said. "I hadn't expected it, with his late arrival to camp and being a junior college player. Those two things, in combination, don't lend themselves to being ready. But his athleticism, his knowledge, his ability to learn and his demonstrated ability to make plays so far has been impressive. He'll play this year."

"Coaches tell me my effort and work is good, but I've got to learn the schemes and plays. I'm also behind on conditioning but I think by Northern Iowa, I'll be ready," Afutiti said.

On the Utes' Key, Afutiti hopes he gets in camp soon.

"He's a hell of a receiver and I look forward to playing against him. He may have a few more things to do than I did, but he should get it done." And Kraft? "His dad was the offensive coordinator and he kept telling me in practice to lay off his son, kind of egg on a spoon, so I'm looking forward to playing against him when UCLA comes to town."

A gentle, soft-spoken guy off the field, it's hard to imagine Afutiti going after some receptionist government bureaucrat at Mount Sac a few weeks ago.

"Actually, it was really my wife. She is the one pushing me the most, telling me I had to go out there and confront them and get in their face. I kind of didn't want to do that because they might get mad and not do it at all. But she's the one that got me to get things done, get things signed and take care of it."

So, that's the key, the secret weapon with junior college limbo.

Let the wife put it on her to-do list.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com