Editor's note: Fifth in a series of stories spotlighting incoming recruits to the BYU football program.
KEARNS — Amone Finau remembers his official trip taken to BYU well, but perhaps not for the same reasons as many others.
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound running back from Kearns took his trip last January, right before National Letter of Intent Day, and enjoyed all the good food, snowmobiling and other activities involved on official trips.
But for Finau, the trip will be remembered for other reasons.
Just weeks prior to that visit came the sudden death of his father, Sateki Finau, due to a heart attack incurred while Amone was attending a wedding in St. George. His dad was rushed to the hospital, but ultimately died on Jan. 2.
"I couldn’t stop thinking about my dad the entire time I was down there,” Finau said. “I really didn’t think of all the food, or anything like that, it was just about him and what he wanted for me and my brother.”
What Sateki wanted was for Amone, and his younger brother Sione to play together at BYU. Those wishes are now a reality after Amone signed shortly following his trip, joining his younger brother, who signed in 2016.
Sione recently returned from LDS Church mission service to San Jose, while Amone was left deciding between BYU and Utah following his mission to Detroit. He signed with Utah as part of its 2014 class, but delayed playing for the program following his mission service while catching up on academics at Salt Lake Community College.
The other big factor involved with playing at BYU was Ilaisa Tuiaki. The Cougar defensive coordinator has been very close with the Finaus for almost 20 years. It started with Tuiaki taking boxing lessons from Amone's grandfather, Sione Pouha, when he was exploring a career as an MMA fighter.
“A big part of my coaching philosophy is from what his grandpa taught me, clear back when I was trying to decide what to do with my life,” Tuiaki said. “I really developed a close relationship with a lot of trust. With that trust those kids were committed to play wherever I was at.”
Eventually Tuiaki gained footing in the coaching world while both Amone and Sione emerged as promising football prospects. So quite naturally the two brothers aimed to stick with Tuiaki no matter where he was coaching.
Tuiaki feels responsible for helping Amone and Sione develop, much like their grandfather helped him, but also believes both can help the program considerably.
“They’re real good players, which is great,” Tuiaki said. “They’re going to help us a lot. So it’s far more than just honoring their family’s wishes, they have to be able to play, but they’re both real good athletes and great kids. I’m excited to have them both down here.”
Amone graduated as a 6-foot-2, 185-pound scatback type, but currently weighs 240.
"So coach (Jeff) Grimes told me I’d be another Ula Tolutau, but I really don’t have his style,” Finau said. “I’m looking to lose some weight, but really, anything I can do to help the team is what I want. I also haven't played for a while, so we'll see how it goes."
Expert breakdown by Ben Criddle
1. Finau's strengths: It's tough evaluating his film since it's almost four years ago, and his body-type has changed considerably since then, but several things jump out at me. First, is I really like his hands. He's someone who knows how to operate in space and catch the ball, which is an underrated aspect for running backs.
He ran mostly off-tackle in the film I saw, and he's good in space. He can make you miss.
2. What he needs to work on: It's all about adjusting to his new size and hopefully he's in good shape. I don't know if he's still a running back, but if he is he'll need to change some of his style. He has to learn how to run between the tackles, but I think he'll do well with that because he showed good power even in high school.6 comments on this story
3. Chances to contribute immediately: I'd give him 20 to 25 percent, but I don't think his chances to contribute will come at running back. I like him as a special teams guy and definitely as a fullback his first year. We'll see where it goes from there.
4. Cougar comparison: He looks like Matt Bellini at 180, but I'm envisioning a Manase Tonga type with how his body has filled out. Manase was always able to catch the ball well, and that's what I like most about Finau's film. So if he can develop into a Manase Tonga type, that will be a huge thing for the team and for him.