Deseret Morning News
Sanford pursued the 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive lineman out of Orem's Timpanogos High School while he was a coach at the University of Utah.
Sanford now has his man.
After two years at the University of Oregon and one year at Snow College, Pili and Sanford are together in Las Vegas.
"We're glad to have him," said Sanford.
Pili, a junior, is a proven winner coming out of Snow College, where he registered 9 1/2 tackles for loss for a Badger team that finished 11-1. They won the Western States Football League and defeated Coffeyville Community College in the Top of the Mountain Bowl last year. The Badgers were ranked No. 2 in the final NJCAA poll.
"We had a need to fill at strong-side defensive end, and Thor is a perfect fit," Sanford told Rebel Nation at scout.com. "He possesses a great mix of size, strength, speed and ability and will compete to be a starter."
Currently, Pili is listed as the backup on the depth chart. He is nursing a broken hand but will wear a cast and play when the Rebels face Utah State on Thursday in Logan. The game kicks off at 6 p.m.
Sanford is expecting the same from Pili as he showed with the Badgers.
"He's a really good football player and has a tremendous attitude and work ethic," Sanford said. "I expect big things out of Thor Pili."
Thor isn't the only Pili on the roster, however. His brother Tolu is a freshman offensive lineman.
"Tolu Pili is developing," Sanford said of the 6-0, 320-pounder. "He's a young offensive lineman, and we look forward to more of him in the future."Out of high school, Thor Pili was ranked among the nation's top 25 defensive linemen, while Tolu graduated from Timpanogos High in 2006, where he was a four-year letter-winner.