PROVO — Managing workouts during a pandemic is one thing, but almost getting killed in a rollover is another for one of Utah’s top high school football players, Timpview safety Raider Damuni.
Kicking back with his family in Miami Beach, Florida, this week, Damuni reflected on how lucky and blessed he, a cousin and a friend were a month ago when the car they were riding in on I-15 got pushed into a guardrail and flipped over.
Damuni, one of Utah’s top three high school recruits in the class of 2021, said another vehicle came in their lane and hit their car, causing it to crash into a retaining wall and flip over near Bluffdale and the Utah State Prison.
“It was a near-death experience,” said Damuni. “It was a humbling experience. It humbled me and made me be sure to not take life for granted. No one was injured and we were blessed to come out of it with no major injuries or surgery.”
Also in the car driven by a friend was Raider Damuni’s cousin Jovesa Damuni, who, like Raider, is a multi-position athlete and who committed to BYU this week out of Ridgeline High.
Raider Damuni, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound strong safety who committed to BYU in the eighth grade, now has offers from Utah, Utah State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Washington State, Arizona and Oregon State. His most recent offer came in late May during a Zoom call with Oregon’s defensive coaches.
An intelligent, polite, well-spoken senior-to-be, Raider Damuni seems to have a handle on the challenges of this summer and offseason when COVID-19 has restricted a lot of what he normally would do as a kid in summer.
His father, Jack Damuni, who is BYU’s executive recruiting on-campus coordinator for the football program, encourages Raider to run a mile a day and keep to his weightlifting regimen. He has increased the amount of weight in his lifts and is 100% healthy as Utah’s high schools look to open up and play football on time.
He took time off from football to play basketball this winter and during the pandemic, he’s had to look for places to lift weights because of restrictions. “I actually did more running this spring and summer than lifting until we opened things up at the high school.”
Of late, the pandemic has had other impacts on Damuni and Timpview.
Damuni said he is aware of three or four football players from California who are looking to join the Timpview football team this season because California has suspended all high school fall sports.
A migration of football players across the state is expected as a result of California’s decision. “A lot of kids are school shopping, I guess,” said the senior.
Damuni’s main goal is to help his team win a state championship. “That is at the top of my mind and I believe as long as that is my priority, individual goals will be met. I think if we focus on what we do as a team and do the best I can individually, then everything else on the personal level will fall into place.”
Damuni said he remains committed to BYU, and even if his father was given more responsibilities in recruiting by head coach Kalani Sitake, he has stuck by his decision he made so long ago. “My father has encouraged me to enjoy the recruiting process and he hasn’t pressured me in any way, but I’m still committed.”
Teammate Logan Fano, who also committed to BYU years ago, opened up his recruiting this past year and is considered one of the top prospects in the state as well as a priority target as a lineman for recruiters from the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten. Since BYU made changes and elevated Jasen Ah You to the position of recruiting coordinator, Fano has rekindled interest in the Cougars. “To my knowledge, Logan has BYU in his top two,” said Damuni.
Recruiting contact has continued for Damuni, who says the contact has been through calls, social media and Zoom meetings and he expects that will continue. “We haven’t been able to make visits or that kind of contact because of restrictions, but that could change as things open up.”
It will be an interesting football season as Utah high schools begin to zero in on contact drills and more involved training in the weeks to come.
Damuni’s father, Jack, remains one of the more outspoken and popular figures on social media on Sitake’s staff, regularly labeling everyone uncle or cousin in a myriad of posts. He and Sitake grew up together on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii. Older than Sitake, Damuni often helped as a baby sitter in the Sitake home, watching over Sitake and his siblings. After playing at Dixie College, he was on BYU’s team during the John Walsh era before the 1996 Cotton Bowl.
Raider might be in the thick of a lot of recruiting interest, which has not waned all year, and the pandemic has its challenges. But when you walk away from a freeway accident where the car actually flips over, it’s pretty tough to top that kind of summer.
He’s been blessed.
He was sipping a cold soda on Miami Beach this week.
Doesn’t get much better than that.