KAPAA — Another Unutoa is going to play Division I college football.
Kapaa High School senior Eli Unutoa signed his letter of intent Wednesday and will play football at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
“I’m feeling really thankful for everybody that helped me get here,” Unutoa said shortly after he signed. “I know it’s just the beginning. My brother, he went through his process. Once you get on campus over there, what you did in high school, it doesn’t matter. You have to get to work and compete.”
Unutoa, a 6-foot-5 290-pound offensive guard for the Kapaa Warriors, was also offered scholarships from the University of Hawaii, Iowa State, Colorado State, San Diego State, Fresno State and Cal.
His father, Morris Unutoa Sr., played football as an offensive lineman for BYU and played seven seasons in the NFL. Unutoa Sr. went back to BYU after he retired from professional football and graduated in 2003.
“I feel grateful and just happy for Eli. It’s a wonderful blessing for him and our family,” Unutoa Sr. said. “For him to go to a wonderful school like BYU, I’m very proud and happy for him for all his accomplishments he’s been able to accomplish this year and his entire career here at Kapaa High School.”
The younger Unutoa said about playing at his father’s alma mater: “He played with a lot of the coaches over there. I was really familiar with the staff from a young age.”
Last year, Unutoa’s older brother Morris Unutoa Jr. committed to play football at the University of Utah. Unutoa Jr. is an offensive tackle and is currently a redshirt freshman.
BYU and the University of Utah, located in Salt Lake City, are about a 45-minute drive away from each other. Though his older brother will be nearby, Unutoa said that didn’t affect his decision much.
“I have a lot of family in Utah, and I grew up there. So, it was just comfortable,” he said.
The two schools play in an annual rivalry game dubbed the “Holy War.”
When asked if playing at rival schools also results in a rivalry with his older brother, Unutoa said, “No, no. My brother is my best friend.”
Unutoa Sr. said it was “blessings” to have two sons playing Division I college football.
When he sees them play opposite each other in the near future, Unutoa Sr. said, “That will be good. That will be cool. I’m going to have to wear a purple shirt or something, or different colors, but I’m proud of both of them.”
About 30 family members, friends and supporters attended Unutoa’s signing at the Kapaa High School library.
“It meant a lot. I didn’t really want to throw a big party. I actually didn’t expect this,” Unutoa said. “I’m just thankful for them coming.”
Unutoa verbally committed to BYU in early November. He had an unofficial visit to the campus during the past summer and an official visit in October.
“I was thinking about going to Cal. But after a meeting with (BYU head coach Kalani Sitake), he talked about going on a mission. That’s when I thought BYU was really the place for me,” Unutoa said.
The Kapaa High senior added: “It’s a Mormon school. A lot of the players went on missions, and they still live by the honor code. There are a lot of people that are like me over there. I can fit right in.”
The national early signing period for Division I college football began Wednesday.
BYU announced its recruiting class of 14 signees Wednesday. Also from Hawaii who committed to the Cougars is Kahuku High School tight end Ethan Erickson, a three-star prospect.
Unutoa is also a three-star prospect according to BYU Athletics.
“Very athletic young man. Physically tough and smart, similar to most of the offensive linemen that we’re going to want to play here at BYU,” said Ryan Pugh, BYU offensive line coach, on the BYU Athletics website. “We’re looking for size, athleticism and the ability to run. But, physical toughness and a high-character, smart young man.”
Unutoa, a Kauai Interscholastic Federation all-star selection this year, said his “aggressiveness” will help him transition to college football.
“Finishing blocks in the game, I think that’s what sets me apart,” he said. “Over there, everybody is big. But that’s my edge, I guess.”
Unutoa has yet to determine what he will study.
“(My goal is) winning games and help BYU back to where it was,” Unutoa said. “Growing up, BYU was the team and Utah was not as good as BYU. So, I want to get it back to where it was.”
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.