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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Utes, Aggies wooing Pleasant Grove lineman

PLEASANT GROVE — Pleasant Grove High has become a hot spot for college coaches. Hardly a week goes by without a coach from a major college program in the region stopping by to woo Brandon Fanaika to play for his program.
All three of the local D-1 programs (BYU, Utah and Utah State) have made several visits, along with Pac-12 schools and some other programs stopping by to see him. For the 6-foot-3, 305-pound OL/DL senior-to-be, it’s a bit overwhelming and a bit humbling.
“It’s quite an honor to be wanted by so many schools,” he said. “I don’t really know what to think of it yet. I’m grateful that so many schools have shown interest. I just need to sort out which schools will be best for me.”
Fanaika holds six offers, from Utah State, Utah, Washington, Arizona, Arizona State and Stanford. Utah State was the first program to make an offer, offering him a scholarship a year ago.
His older brother, Jason Fanaika, played for Gary Andersen at Utah State in 2010 before leaving for a mission. Jason had great things to say about Utah State’s program and where they’re going and is strongly encouraging him to join him in Logan.
“He loved it there,” Brandon Fanaika said. “He loves Coach Andersen and believes the program is really going to improve with him as the head coach. I’ve met with Coach Andersen a lot, and I really like him. I like how he coaches, and it would obviously be great to play with my older brother again.”
It also works to Utah State’s favor that it was the first to make an offer.
“It was incredible getting that first offer,” he said. “It was really an unforgettable moment for me, knowing that I’d have a chance to play football in college. I love that Utah State was the first to make an offer, and I’m very interested in that program and where they’re going.”
The offers and subsequent attention came like an avalanche soon after Utah State threw its hat into the ring. The next school to make an offer was Stanford.
“I love Stanford, and I’ve already been out there twice, and the atmosphere of the school, it’s incredible,” he said. “I’m a good student, I have a 3.9 grade-point average, and I have a 23 on the ACT, so I’d love to study at a school like Stanford.”
Brandon Fanaika is also impressed with Stanford's football program, which is coming off an Orange Bowl victory from a year ago. Since that time, Stanford's head coach, Jim Harbaugh, has moved on to the NFL, but Fanaika is impressed with the coaching staff left in place none-the-less.
“I love Coach Shaw, who is the head coach there now, and I believe he’ll continue to do a great job, just like Coach Harbaugh did,” he said.
The next school to make an offer was Arizona. As recently as last week, Wildcat assistant coach Robert Anae visited Fanaika's school to recruit him.
“I have a ton of respect for Coach Anae, and I love that he’s down there in Arizona,” he said. “I think that Arizona was one of the most underrated programs there was last year. They’re a program that is improving, and I think they’re going to do some great things here soon.”
After Arizona came Washington, which extended him an offer shortly after last season ended.
“Coach Sarkisian is a great coach and a great man,” Fanaika said. “I really want to go up there and see more of the school. I know that they have a great Polynesian community up there with the team, so I’d love to learn more about them.”
The next school that informed him of an offer was Utah, although there is some discrepancy as to when that offer was proffered.
“They came by after the season and told me that they actually offered me last summer,” Fanaika said. “I guess I didn’t get the message, but I’m very excited that Utah is interested in me. I’ve always been a huge fan of their program and would love the opportunity to play there.”
Because of its proximity, he’s been to Utah many times on unofficial visits to see the team practice and to visit with the coaches.
“I love Coach Sitake,” he said. “I don’t just consider him as a great coach but also as a great friend of my family. I love Coach Whittingham, and he’s done amazing things there since he’s been head coach. Utah is definitely one of my favorite schools right now.”
Lastly came Arizona State with an offer.
“My cousin, Paul Fanaika, who is now in the NFL, played for Arizona State,” he said. “He’s been talking to me a lot about that program, how he loved it and how it would be a great place for me to go. They run a powerful offense that I love. I’d love to play offensive line there.”
Brandon Fanaika is generally regarded as an offensive line prospect, although some schools have expressed interest in having him play defense.
Other offers are soon to follow the already six offers he currently has. Two schools in particular have shown a lot of late interest.
“Both USC and Oregon have told me that they’re close to offering,” he said. “I’m going to visit both schools this summer, and we’ll see if they offer. I’m very interested in both of those programs.”
His other plans this summer include visits to both Utah’s and BYU’s camps. While BYU has yet to offer, it is showing some interest.
“I talk to coaches at BYU a lot, and they’re just telling me to be patient,” he said. “I really like BYU. I’m LDS, and I have plans to serve a mission after my first year, so BYU would be a great place for that. I love the coaches there, and hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to play there. I’m hoping they offer me.”
Overall, Fanaika is trying to stay humble throughout the process, grateful for every bit of attention he’s received so far.
“It’s an honor not just to me, but for my family, my mom and dad,” he said. “It’s a way I have to give back to them for all the hard work they’ve done. I want to make my parents proud with everything I do because I owe it to them. We’ll talk about it as a family when the time comes, and I’ll make the best decision for me to reach my goals.”
According to his head coach, Dale Sampson, Fanaika is worthy of all the attention he’s been receiving so far.
“He’s a three-year starter for us, and he’s as good as any offensive lineman out there in my opinion,” said Sampson. “I don’t want to get his head too big, but he’s definitely worthy of all those offers, and he’d be a success at any of the programs that have offered him, so long as he keeps grounded and working hard.”
Fanaika plans to wait until the completion of his senior year to make his commitment.
“I want to go to a place where I can progress as a football player, a place that will respect my plans to serve a mission, but I also want a place with great academics," he said. “School is important to me, and life is more than just football, obviously. I don’t have any favorite schools right now, but I’ll definitely look harder at each school that offers me and make the best decision."

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