SALT LAKE CITY — For Highland's Pita Tonga, there were just too many reasons not to commit to Utah.
Tonga is a 6-foot-2, 275-pound defensive lineman who committed to the Utes a few weeks after being offered. He chose the Utes despite rising interest from other programs, such as Oregon, Michigan and Wisconsin.
"Utah is my first choice, and has always been my first choice, so why wait for other offers?" Tonga said. "I thought about it for a bit, but there was really no reason I could think of not to commit to them."
Tonga's ties to the Utah program are deep. Both his parents attended school there, he has current family members playing there and has forged strong relationships with all the coaches through the years.
"It's always been Utah growing up, so it was an easy decision," Tonga said. "I've been hoping for an offer from them for so long — I can't even remember anytime in my life when I didn't dream of playing for the Utes."
Utah offered Tonga officially right after the start of his prep season. Coaches Kalani Sitake and Jay Hill informed him of the offer, and although he was expecting the offer, he was overwhelmed.
"I thought they'd offer, and they'd indicated that they'd offer, but you never really know for sure until you have it there in your hand," Tonga related. "When I learned of the offer — it was seriously a dream come true. It was an emotional moment and a moment I'll never forget."
Tonga will play at either defensive end or defensive tackle at Utah and hopes to continue the strong tradition of defensive line play while he's in the program.
"Utah is known of its defensive linemen, so it's a great honor that they think I can play that position," Tonga said. "I mean, everyone knows Utah produces great defensive linemen, so now it's my opportunity to try to follow in that tradition. It's an exciting opportunity."
Tonga is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has plans to serve a mission immediately upon graduation.
Email: [email protected], Twitter: @BrandonCGurney