SALT LAKE CITY — East high's Vaha Vainuku could have had the offer he's coveted since young, but instead opted to commit to the school across the street. He informed the Utah coaching staff that he'll sign a letter of intent with them late last night.
Utah came forward with an offer to the 6-3, 280-pound lineman a week ago, but he chose to hold off a bit — choosing to commit after their bowl game against Georgia Tech.
"When they offered, I was almost sure that I'd commit, but I didn't want to bug them while they were getting ready for their bowl game," he said. "I've really started to love their program and their school the more I'm around it."
That love for Utah's program is a direct 180 from his opinion about them for most of his life. Although he grew up just blocks away from Utah's campus his allegiances laid south.
"I hated Utah growing up," he said. "I was a BYU guy — my family were big-time BYU fans and they still are, but that will probably change now that I'm going to the U."
Vainuku held offers from Utah State, Washington State and from Hawaii at the time of his committment to Utah. Although BYU was yet to offer, they had indicated to him that they would if he chose to visit the campus on an official visit come Jan. 14.
He won't be making that visit now, opting to commit to the school that had won him over in recent months. He'll take his official visit to Utah on Jan. 20 and it will be the only visit he plans on making.
So why the change in heart?
"The more I'm around Utah the more I just love it," he said. "It's such a great fit for me as a school and as a football program. I have a cousin, Sione Pouha, who played there, I have a lot of friends there and it just felt right."
Vainuku played both sides of the ball during high school, but like his cousin, he'll be playing defensive tackle at Utah. His plans are to serve a mission straight out of high school after signing, giving him his full eligibility upon his return.
During those two years, his hope is that his true-blue family will turn red.
"They have two years, so hopefully that's enough time," he said. "I know they'll come around — that they'll see the same things in Utah that I have. They support me first, so they'll be red when I get home, no question."