COMPTON, Calif. – Kalolo Manumaleuga received a very welcomed visit the very day he arrived home from his LDS mission to Las Vegas. Before even having enough time to take off his proselytizing clothes, BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi was there to meet him – soon offering him a scholarship.
Manumaleuga is a 6-foot-2, 250 linebacker/defensive end prospect who accepted BYU’s offer after taking some time to think about it some more. How he even reached the point to gain that offer is remarkable.
Manumaleuga is originally from Western Samoa, where he grew up until he was 14 years old. After spending a year in New Zealand it was off to Southern California and Dominguez High School.
Having grown up playing rugby, Manumaleuga immediately took to football – starting off his gridiron career as a sophomore.
“It was really weird at first,” said Manumaleuga about his initial football experience. “It’s sort of like rugby, but different in some ways too, but I really learned to love the game fast. I played defense and love hitting people as hard as I can, so I love that about football.”
Manumaleuga found himself at Compton Junior College following his high school career where he played at multiple positions – including punter. After one year playing he left for his LDS mission without any solid plans other than to return and play for Compton.
While on his mission, however, his recruiting began to heat up in a pretty uncommon way.
“We were out tracting and happened to knock on the door of a member named Dave Viger,” Manumaleuga said. “He invited us in and started getting to know us. He could see that I was a big guy, and (he) asked me if I played football. I told him my story, and he really got interested in me.”
Viger sent off Manumaleuga's film to UNLV with the Rebel coaching staff taking immediate interest. Seeing the immediate interest his film generated, they sent film off to BYU and received similar response.
“They let me know that they were interested and would be in touch after my mission,” said Manumaleuga. “I didn’t know much about BYU, but I knew it was a school that represented the church, so I was obviously interested.”
BYU was obviously extremely interested as well, making plans to get in touch not a week after Manumaleuga retured, not even a day after, but the very day he returned home from his two year mission.
Upon meeting with Kaufusi, Manumaleuga took an immediate liking to the coach and vice versa with both finding many similarities between them.
“Coach Kaufusi talked about how much I reminded him of himself,” said Manumaleuga. “He let me know that he grew up on Tonga and got into football late, but was able to play at BYU and find a lot of success. I immediately felt a strong connection with him and sort of knew that BYU was where I needed to play after our talk.”
Manumaleuga will return to Compton this coming fall and is on track to graduate this coming spring. He’ll join BYU’s program in the offseason and could contribute at either linebacker or at defensive end.
“I got bigger when I was on my mission, so I’m probably lineman size right now, but I’m going to work to get that weight off,” said Manumaleuga. “I played at around 225 before my mission, and want to get to that weight again. I’ll play defensive line if that’s where they want me, but I really want to play middle linebacker. It’s the position I think I’m best at.”
Manumaleuga will be visiting BYU this coming Wednesday where he’ll be bringing along another BYU prospect.
“My cousin is Ma’ataua Brown, who plays for Cerritos,” said Manumaleuga. “He’s LDS and he’s very interested in BYU, so hopefully the visit will go well. We’ll get there on Wednesday and visit with coach Mendenhall on Friday, so hopefully it all goes well.”
Brown is a 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive tackle prospect who could help fill in immediately for the team’s six graduating defensive lineman after this coming season.
For Manumaleuga, he couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to join BYU’s program.
“It’s crazy how stuff happens and I often think about if I didn’t happen to knock on that one door where I’d be right now,” he said. “It’s sort of like fate and now I get to play for a football program that represents my church while getting a great education. I couldn’t be more thankful for how things turned out.”
BYU football: BYU moves quickly in committing California prospect
Kalolo Manumaleuga will join BYU's program in 2013 where he'll look to contribute immediately at either linebacker or defensive end.