Lotulelei excited about BYU future

Inoke Lotulelei

Inoke Lotulelei is considered one of the top wide receivers in the state of Utah. Although his Cottonwood team didn't turn out as hoped, Lotulelei knows his football career is far from over. But before he suits up for BYU, he'll step aside from the sport he loves and enter a different field.

With talent such as quarterback Cooper Bateman – ranked the number two quarterback prospect in the country and committed to Alabama – Cottonwood High School was expected to do well this year. Expectations were also high because of the teammates Bateman had to throw to. Among his top targets were receiver Inoke Lotulelei, who is going to BYU, and tight end Siale Fakailoatonga, who has offers from UCLA, BYU, Cal, Utah State and Utah.

"I feel like I did the best I could considering how our team did," Lotulelei said. "We had a lot of problems on the team and things didn't go as well as expected. We were supposed to be one of the better teams but things didn't go the way we wanted it to.

"We were in a three-way tie with Brighton and West Jordan. Then we had a little game where you play a half with each team. We beat Brighton and then we lost to Bingham in the first round. We were hoping to go a little further."

Despite losing in the first round of the state playoffs to Bingham, Lotulelei – a versatile player who played multiple positions on the team – managed to have a productive season.

"I got past the 1,000-yard receiving mark again for the second year in a row," he said. "As far as touchdowns goes, I had around six or seven. It wasn't as much as last year, where I had 16. I also did kick and punt return on special teams like I did last year. I also did fly sweeps, and we also have some plays where I do the wildcat and things like that."

So far Lotulelei has received one accolade for his performance this past season.

"I'm hoping to get all-state again, but me and a couple of our football players got all-region," he said. "I haven't heard of any other awards yet."

Now that his high school football career is over, Lotulelei is planning on suiting up to perform on a different kind of field: the mission field.

"After football finished, I was just planning on working out until I left on my mission," Lotulelei said. "Since the age change, the plan right now is to just leave on my mission right after high school as soon as possible."

Last Sunday, he began the process to become a missionary.

"I just talked to my bishop with my parents and talked about when I can start on my papers," said Lotulelei. "I turn 18 in February, so we were talking about when I could turn my papers in. I want to leave as soon as possible so I can come back and play football."

Like every young man who's made the decision to serve, Lotulelei has pondered where in the world he would like to serve.

"I've always wanted to just go to New Zealand," Lotulelei said. "I've always thought that would be a great place to go to, but it really doesn't matter where I go as long as I go. I'm pretty excited about it."

He'll follow in the footsteps of his two older brothers.

"I have two brothers on missions right now. I have one brother in Columbia and another brother just left to Tonga," said Lotulelei. "My older brother always talked about wanting to learn Tongan. I thought that was really cool that he was called to go back and serve in Tonga."

A highly recruited athlete out of Cottonwood High School, Lotulelei had at one time committed to Coach Mora's football program at UCLA. However, he ended up changing his mind.

"When I come home from my mission, I'll just come back and play football for BYU," he said. "That's what I want to do. I just want to go play with the Cougars and do whatever they need me to do."

UCLA had offered Lotulelei early during the recruiting process. At the time, BYU was sifting through a few receiver recruits while having a few scholarship offers to give. In the end, the Cougars were able to offer Bingham High School receiver Hayden Weichers, who committed, along with Lotulelei a little later.

"I grew up in an LDS and BYU household," Lotulelei said. "It's always kind of been a dream of mine to play there, so growing up I've always been the biggest BYU fan along with my dad. It's just always been a goal for me to go play football there so my family can come watch me play. That's another reason why I wanted to go to BYU was so my family can come and watch me play. For my family to be able to do that was another big factor for me in choosing BYU."

While Lotulelei – whose last name means "pray good" in the Tongan language – will one day be set apart as a missionary, he also believes he'll have a chance indirectly to promote the values of his faith once he plays football for BYU.

"Well, one reason why BYU went independent was so they could be more in the public eye and get more noticed," said Lotulelei. "They want to bring more attention to what BYU is all about and things like that. People see BYU and they know what it stands for. It's a way to bring more awareness to the Church through the football team. That's another reason why I wanted to be a part of it."

However, in order to bring greater visibility, BYU has to become relevant. That means the Cougar program must begin winning bigger games in order to be relevant on the national college football stage.

"That's what we have to start doing," said Lotulelei. "We have to start winning the big games. I was talking to people at church and they felt they should have used [backup quarterback James] Lark earlier. He had really good game the last game."

Once Lotulelei is at BYU, the Cougar coaches will have him play in the slot.

"They kind of just said that I'll be like what J.D. Falslev does on the offense," Lotulelei said. "I'll kind of play his position as an h-receiver and catch passes out of the backfield and do the fly sweep stuff and slot receiver. I'll also do the punt return stuff as well, so that's what they want to do. It will be really exciting because that's the position I played in high school. It's a lot of fun and I'm pretty excited to play the position at BYU."

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