PROVO — BYU put a crucial finishing touch on its 2006 recruiting class with an oral commitment Wednesday night by what may be a crown jewel, San Mateo, Calif., two-time all-state defensive lineman Matangi Tonga.

Tonga, a 6-foot-2, 250 pound inside tackle for Aragon High, chose the Cougars over Oregon and had offers from Nebraska, Arizona State and early last fall USC. Tonga is expected to join Los Angeles Times Southern Cal lineman of the year Romney Fuga in signing with the Cougars Feb. 1. The Tonga commit loomed big for BYU because another highly recruited LDS lineman from California, Sione Fua, decided to stay in Pac-10 territory with Cal or Stanford.

"Basically, I believe things happen for a reason," Tonga said. Earlier this month he made it through airport security but was denied a seat on a flight to visit Oregon. He rescheduled for this past weekend and again Tonga was turned down because he only had his school I.D. card.

"That wasn't the big reason for my decision to go to BYU, but it seemed like I wasn't meant to go to Oregon for some reason," Tonga said. "I saw it as some kind of sign."

The all-Bay Area lineman told BYU assistant coaches Brandon Doman, Jeff Grimes and Steve Kaufusi dring a visit in the Tonga home Wednesday night. "They all jumped up and down, it was pretty funny." Tonga said.

A powerful, strong player who turned heads at the USC summer camp, Tonga said the Trojans backed off him when he was adamant about going on an LDS mission. "I was up front with them, as I was every recruiter, that I would serve a mission no matter what. USC kept recruiting me but slowly backed off this fall."

Tonga said he and his parents visited BYU's campus the week of his birthday, Jan. 6 and were impressed by the close staff. "The players and staff have a strong bond. They joke around with each other but they care and you can tell. Also, they made more contact with me than any other school. Coach Kaufusi came to three of my basketball games this year and that meant a lot to me."

Another factor is a chance at playing time as a freshman, Tonga said.

"I'm glad I made the decision I just made."


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com