The Star of Bingham
BYU already offered scholarships to three Bingham High School football players. One went to wide receiver/safety Jordan Pendleton, one went to Austin Holt, a candidate for the top tight end in the west in 2008, and one went to a defensive lineman who is literally the “Star” of Bingham’s defense.
Star Lotulelei and his family are strong in their LDS faith, and it is only fitting because their last name means "good prayer" in their native Tongan tongue. Star is not only strong in his religion, however. He is also just plain strong.
“I’m about 6-3 almost 6-4 and around 245,” said Lotulelei. “I play defensive tackle and nose guard. I bench 315, squat 400 pounds and clean 250.
“I don’t really know any of my stats. I did have a good play against Hunter High School, though. It was a screen play, and the quarterback was going to get sacked, so he threw it up, and I caught it and ran it back for a touchdown. I would say I maybe had around five or six sacks but don’t know for sure.”
Lotulelei works out with Derek Tuimauga, his teammate on the Bingham Miners football team. The 6-foot-3, 325 pound offensive lineman often jokes with practice partner about eating more because Lotulelei has a six-pack for a stomach.
“Well I’m trying to put on weight; I eat all the good stuff,” laughed Lotulelei. “I work out with Derek. He’s a big kid and he’s one of the best O-linemen I’ve ever gone up against. That’s what makes me a better player, because he’s so good and so big. The thing that makes it so difficult when playing against him is he’s just so strong, and he’s pretty quick for how big he is. He can move around with some of the best D-linemen out there.”
Lotulelei likes to take advantage of his strength when he faces opponents. His favorite move is the bull rush. He admits that he is not the fastest lineman, but he feel he makes up for it with his power game.
At the moment, the Utah schools are showing the most interest in Lotulelei. He already has offers from BYU and Utah.
“I was being recruited by BYU, Utah, andUNLV, and I’ve talked to Weber State,” said Lotulelei. “I’m just mostly being recruited by all the instate schools. Right now, I’ve only been up to BYU. They were the first ones to offer me.
“When I went to BYU it just felt like the place for me because my family has grown up in the Church and BYU is place that has a strong spirit. The way they run their school is done by the Spirit. I went over there with my parents, and we spoke to Coach Bronco Mendenhall. The way he spoke about the football program, it just seems like the place for me, but I haven’t been to Utah yet.”
BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall is known for stressing that Cougar football players are flag-bearers for the university and the church that owns it. Many recruits report that the Coach Mendenhall explains this responsibility in no uncertain terms during the recruiting process. Lotulelei did not need the lesson, however, because he already understood the burden that BYU’s bear.
“The Church is what the school is based around, so if I go to that school, that’s what I’ll be representing,” said Lotulelei. “I’ll be representing the Church and it's people.”
The opportunity to represent his faith is not the only thing that attracts Lotulelei to BYU. He is also drawn to the moral environment on campus, which he believes will help him grow as a person, not just a football player.
Lotulelei has family ties to the Provo school, too. His father is at BYU completing some class requirements.
“He’s majoring in accounting and is doing his doctorate in education,” said Lotulelei. “My parents want me to go to BYU. I grew up watching all of their football games.”
BYU quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman is recruiting Lotulelei. Coach Doman recently visited Bingham and talked to the Miners' head football coach about his stand out d-lineman.
“We were having our athletic classes at school when Coach Doman came by,” said Lotulelei. “Later that day he called Bronco Mendenhall and told him about me. The next day me, my parents and my little brother went up there to meet with Bronco, and we talked to Coach Mendenhall. That’s when he offered me. Doman is a really funny guy. He’s really laid back and just a person you feel comfortable around. He’s someone who you don’t feel scared or shy to talk to.”
Coach Doman is not the only member of BYU’s coaching staff who Lotulelei has grown to like. The big Tongan also holds Coach Mendenhall and defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi in high regard.
“Brandon Doman and Coach Mendenhall are two of the greatest people I’ve ever met,” said Lotulelei. “When I first met Bronco, the way he talked to me and how he was telling me about his football team, I could tell that if I go to BYU, I would be taken care of. He’s a really strong person in the Church, and I know he would be a great leader. It just feels like it would be the right place for me.
“Coach Kaufusi is my uncle. I was up at BYU for their junior day and he was teaching me and some other D-linemen some basic skills on how to use our hands. He’s a good coach and has been through the system from high school to college to the pros, so he’s someone that I trust. He’s someone that I would like to follow.”
In what has become a bit of a trend, the University of Utah followed up with an offer not long after BYU.
“Utah’s head coach came to our school and also watched us and the defensive coordinator called me and told me they would like to offer me,” Lotulelei said.
Lotulelei currently favors BYU, but he would like to visit Utah prior to making a commitment. He is glad to have the scholarship offers because it means that he will be able to fulfill his dream of attending college.
“It’s one of the greatest feelings,” said Lotulelei of the promise of a university education. “Growing up and going to all the games with my dad and my little brother—having a scholarship is something I’m very grateful for, especially from BYU. When my parents heard that Bronco Mendenhall offered me a scholarship, they cried. This is something I’m very grateful for to my Heavenly Father and for all that He’s done for me and helping me get this far.”