Since the first day I got here they've helped me out with all the stuff — learning how the stance and everything —Motekiai Langi
PROVO — Thank goodness for YouTube.
Many things have challenged BYU freshman Motekiai Langi in his attempt to play football, but, fortunately, putting on pads hasn't been one of them. Although the 6-foot-7, 410 pound Tonga native hadn't played football before trying to fit on his pads, he was ahead of the curve, in that regard.
"I YouTubed that before I came in, so we got that covered," Langi said, when asked if he had problems with his pads by reporters after Tuesday's practice.
He also made mention of using the internet to get up to speed on other football aspects, such as learning football terms that are basic to most people who grew up with the sport, but not for Langi.
His story is well-known by most by now. BYU Coach Steve Kaufusi identified his potential while watching him play basketball in Tonga, and, despite his never having played football, the BYU staff decided to give him a scholarship offer. He's since served an LDS Church mission to Arizona and is now back and working on learning how to play.
While many assumed he'd redshirt for at least his first year, coaches opted to put him on the field goal kick and block teams during games. His first action came during BYU's 20-6 win over Portland State, which Langi admitted to being anxious about, at least initially.
"The first play, yeah," he said when asked if he experienced any nerves. "But the boys got my back, so it was great. It turned out to be a great game."
While most players wouldn't catch the notice of anyone playing the role he does, it's hard to miss Langi, given both his stature and subsequent intrigue. All of it has amounted to a lot of attention from fans and media a like.
"It's a little bit too much," Langi said, with a laugh.
One role he took during Saturday's game was running out with the BYU flag as his team took the field.
"It was amazing. Just a lot of adrenaline coming out," Langi said. "We were in the tunnel and Jack (Damuni, who is the team's director of player personnel) gave me the flag and I was like, 'Okay, I'll run it out.'"
Langi's education hasn't just been via the internet, obviously, as players and coaches have played a big role in his development. The Tongan lineman was careful to name all his defensive tackle cohorts when asked who has helped him most.
"Since the first day I got here they've helped me out with all the stuff — learning how the stance and everything," Langi said. "They've just been great and I'm grateful to all of them for their help."
Langi was also mindful to credit the offensive linemen on the team for his continued development, as well.
It may take some time still before Langi is able to see time in the defensive tackle rotation, although he's working toward that goal, along with the other reasons for coming to BYU.
"I just want to learn the game, to help out wherever I can and also there's the academic part," Langi said. "That's why I came here as well — not only football, but to get an education. To see if I can help out the people (of Tonga) when I go back."