Advertiser Staff Writer
Punahou School senior Manti Te'o — perhaps the nation's most heralded football recruit still undecided about a college choice — has narrowed his list of prospective schools from five to three.
Te'o, regarded by many as the country's No. 1 linebacker prospect, called Brigham Young University coach Bronco Mendenhall yesterday morning to decline the Cougars' scholarship offer. Te'o had called Stanford's coaching staff on Wednesday to say he would not choose the Cardinal on Feb. 4, the first day recruits are allowed to sign national letters of intent.
That leaves Notre Dame, Southern California and UCLA as the finalists in the most highly anticipated sweepstakes ever for a Hawai'i recruit. Te'o is scheduled to make an official visit to USC next weekend.
"It releases some stress, gets rid of some of the pressure," Te'o told The Advertiser last night. "But the decision actually gets harder after this, because it's crunch time."
Te'o visited Stanford last weekend, though the Cardinal were considered by many to be a long shot. The decision to turn down BYU, however, may come as a big surprise because Te'o is a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with which BYU is affiliated.
Te'o visited BYU's campus in Provo, Utah, two weekends ago and was hosted by two football-playing cousins, former Kahuku standouts Shiloah Te'o and Malosi Te'o. Another fellow North Shore resident, Kahuku defensive back Jray Galeai, also was on the recruiting trip.
"My cousins are there, I have family there, the church ... ," Te'o said. "It felt a little too comfortable, and I think I just needed to go somewhere else."
Te'o, who plans to serve a two-year LDS mission after his freshman season, said he was confident he could maintain his church ties at the other three schools. He said the chances of him going to any of them are "pretty equal."
"I'm just going to take my time and think everything through," he said.