His graying hair and silver-tipped beard frame his soft eyes and smile. He’s now in his 50s and it’s been decades since he played in the same backfield as Heisman winner Ty Detmer at BYU.

“They have the right people in the right place to take it to the next level. I’m excited to see what happens. You saw what happened to Utah when they joined the Pac-12 so I’m anxious to see how this impacts this program.” — Peter Tuipulotu on Cougars’ move to the Big 12

But Peter Tuipulotu appears his same humble self. At a recent football media event hosted by his alma mater’s athletic department, the former All-San Mateo County star took time to reminisce and explain the meaning of being a legacy player. He has three sons who have or will play for BYU and he ranks as a top-10 rusher in school history.

Peter’s older brother Tom paved the way, signing and playing running back at BYU from 1983-87. He followed in Tom’s footsteps in 1988, where he was later baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the same day as Detmer, whom he enrolled with as a freshman.

Peter’s son Petey is the latest to try to find playing time on the BYU football roster. Petey’s older brothers Hank and Ben have been in the program previously. Hank suffered two season-ending knee injuries, the first in his freshman season. Petey and Ben can play receiver or safety. Hank has moved on from football due to medical reasons.

Legacy players? Peter’s wife Mo played for BYU’s women’s basketball team from 1987 through 1991.

It would be nice to see a Tuipulotu back on the field making plays.

The father played one year for the San Diego Chargers before playing in the CFL. He has worked as a coach and high school administrator in South Carolina but owns a home in Utah County.

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Tuipulotu said he and his former teammates are enjoying seeing their kids play major college football. He played halfback until Mike Salido broke his leg in a spring practice scrimmage, then he moved over to fullback. He split time with Mark Atuaia, now a coach at Washington State, and Jamal Willis.

“It’s fun to see our kids out there competing,” said Pete. “Kyle Roberts’ son Chase is out there. It’s kind of funny how many of our kids are in the program right now.”

Tuipulotu said after playing for the Chargers for one season, the CFL expanded east and had a franchise in Baltimore. “Neal Fort and I played for Baltimore for a few years and then when the Browns moved the team back to Montreal, Fort followed and I went to Saskatchewan for a few years.”

His wife Mo started a corporate career about the time the couple had four kids in succession and he took a job coaching at a high school.

“I’ve just been working with my kids and coaching them. I’m kind of semiretired now and I come out here where we have a house in Provo. We love it in South Carolina, but if our kids settle out here, we can easily move out this way.”

His son Petey just returned from a church mission to Costa Rica. He signed with the 2020 recruiting class before leaving to serve.  

“I tell him to work hard. The game has blessed me and I told him to get an education and make the most of it.”

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Tuipulotu and BYU coach Kalani Sitake were both born in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, and he is thrilled to see what Sitake has done and who he has assembled as part of his staff to take the Cougars to the next level as members of the Big 12.

He likes that running backs coach Harvey Unga is doing well and Sione Po’uha is now on staff. Both share his Tongan heritage.

“They have the right people in the right place to take it to the next level. I’m excited to see what happens. You saw what happened to Utah when they joined the Pac-12 so I’m anxious to see how this impacts this program.”

Tuipulotu remembers his college playing days when Sitake was just in high school. Sitake would come to practice and his dad would have him and his brother running stadium stairs, working his butt off. 

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“Look at him now, it shows how the hard work has paid off for him. Kudos to him for his dad having him work so hard. I remember feeling so bad for him having to run those stairs with his dad urging them on. But that is the Tongan way, to go out and work hard.”

BYU’s first season in the Big 12 is just more than a month away.

Indeed, it’s going to take the hardest of work to compete.

Stay tuned.

Former BYU tight end Hank Tuipulotu runs by Texas State safety Kevin Anderson in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. He has moved on from football after suffering two season-ending injuries. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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