SALT LAKE CITY — Puka Nacua’s decision to go to Washington was made more dramatic by a vicious Sunday night snowstorm.
Utah's top prep football recruit braved snow-packed highways that turned a 30 to 40 minute drive into a nearly hour-and-45-minute ordeal.
The announcement was preceded by highlights, and he was surrounded by his Orem teammates and his older brother Samson Nacua, a University of Utah receiver.
Nacua said he and his mother weren't ready to make a decision on National Signing Day last Wednesday.
He said "Friday or Saturday" he and his mother "got on the same page." He said he never expected to be experiencing anything like what he did on Sunday night.
"It's been a blessing," he said. "It's been a crazy experience. ... It's definitely been a crazy journey."
The Orem High senior was supposed to announce his decision by choosing one of six hats on KSL’s SportsBeat Sunday night at 10:45 p.m. But Nacua and his mother, Penina, hadn’t arrived on the set by the time the weekly show started, so what social media dubbed #Pukawatch lasted a bit longer than planned.
His mother was reluctant to come on set with him, but Puka said he wouldn't make the decision without her by his side.
Nacua committed to USC before his senior season, but he decided to take his five official campus visits before signing his scholarship paperwork. He visited Utah in December and took trips to Washington, UCLA and Oregon in January.
During his junior season, as he helped Orem High to the first of two state titles in Nacua’s career, it seemed he might be choosing between the schools where his older brother played. Kai Nacua played at BYU, while Samson Nacua is a wide receiver at Utah.49 comments on this story
But very quickly, he attracted national attention, and he committed to the Trojans in June. He announced that decision on Twitter. At the time, the 6-foot-2 195-pound receiver said he was “ready for the recruiting process to be over.”
Nacua finished his senior season as the top receiver in the country, averaging 166.9 yards per game and 26 total touchdowns. He was the co-MVP of the Polynesian Bowl, as well as the co-Polynesian player of the year, an award he shared with Alabama commit Taulia Tagovailoa. He also played in the Army All-American Bowl, and has been honored with a long list of awards, including Gatorade Player of the Year and the Deseret News’ Mr. Football.As a junior, he was the 4A MVP.