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BYU's Kaufusi focuses attention on being a full-time football player

PROVO — These are exciting times for the Kaufusi family.

Bronson, a former BYU defensive line star, missed his NFL rookie season after suffering a season-ending ankle injury a year ago. Now, Bronson’s back with the Baltimore Ravens. On Thursday, he recorded a sack in an exhibition game.

Younger brother Corbin is looking to make a big impact at defensive end this season for the Cougars.

Michelle Kaufusi, their mother, is a candidate to become the first woman elected as mayor of Provo. The primary elections end this week. Both Corbin and Bronson have spent time this summer campaigning for their mom.

“I’m her biggest supporter,” Corbin said. “If my mom says, ‘Go knock doors,’ I’m knocking doors. If someone asks for signs up, I’m putting signs up.”

Steve Kaufusi, the father of Bronson and Corbin and husband of Michelle, served as BYU’s defensive line coach from 2002-2016 and this season he's switched responsibilities and is now coaching the linebackers. Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki is coaching the D-line now.

“They have their different styles of coaching. Coach (Tuiaki) is a great coach. It’s going from a great coach to a great coach. I can’t complain about anything,” said Corbin, who added that he’ll move home once the season starts to focus on football. “At home, my dad is pretty good about leaving work at work. But, if he has any advice, I’m always going to hear it.”

For the first time in his college career, Corbin, a 6-foot-9, 285-pound junior, is a full-time football player after playing three seasons for the Cougar basketball team.

These days, he’s all but given up hoops.

During his offseason training regimen, Kaufusi didn’t play any pickup ball, “unless I’m playing H-O-R-S-E with my brothers,” he said. “Basically, it’s straight football with more drill work than last summer.”

Kaufusi said of last season, his first playing football for the Cougars, “I kind of felt like I was always a football player even going into basketball. I still felt like a football player. Now I know I’m just going to be a football player.”

Does he miss basketball?

“I haven’t even thought about basketball,” Kaufusi said. “I love what I’m doing right now. I wish the best for the basketball guys, but I definitely love where I’m at.”

In his first college game at Arizona last September, Kaufusi unexpectedly saw plenty of playing time.

“I didn’t think I would get in that game. I was on this huge energy high, playing like a chicken with my head cut off,” Kaufusi said. “I was like, ‘Where do I go?’ They threw me in there and wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing. It’s a lot different now because I still have that energy but it’s more controlled. You know where you’re going and you’re controlling your energy toward that.”

In 13 games last season, Kaufusi recorded 31 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries, one pass breakup and two blocked kicks.

During fall camp, he’s feeling even more comfortable with his role.

“Definitely some rust is coming off,” Kaufusi said. “I missed spring ball because of basketball so it would have been nice to get those extra reps and get more of a feel for it but the rust is starting to come off.”

Kaufusi is also a weapon on the offensive side of the ball. Last season at Utah, he caught a fourth-down conversion on a fake field goal.

“Corbin can do a lot of things,” said Tuiaki. “He can move to tight end and play right now. But we don’t want to lose him on defense.”

Kaufusi originally signed a National Letter of Intent to play football at BYU. But, during his two-year LDS mission to South Korea, he grew a couple of inches and decided to play basketball upon his return.

In his three seasons on the hardwood, Kaufusi averaged 3.8 points per game. He was a big factor in the Cougars’ three consecutive victories at Gonzaga.

As a basketball player, he was listed at 6-foot-10. For football, he’s listed at 6-9.

His unusual height for a football player gives him some advantages — such as length and wingspan — but it can be also be a disadvantage if he’s not careful.

“I’m probably the longest defensive end in college football right now. That helps me a ton of getting to the edge, getting separation on blocks,” Kaufusi said. “It definitely has its pros and cons. I’ve got to stay lower because it’s easier for guys to get underneath me. But if you are able to control the cons, the pros definitely outweigh everything else.”

And he’s looking to be a force on the BYU defense just like Bronson was — and, perhaps, someday in the NFL.

“Bronson’s worked really hard to get back from his injury and I’m really excited for him,” Corbin said. “He’s been waiting for a long time for this.”

With Bronson jump-starting his NFL career in Baltimore, Michelle seeking to become the mayor of Provo, Steve making a coaching position change and Corbin focusing full-time on football, it should be an intriguing fall at the Kaufusi home.