"I'm back in Provo! I'll be on the field. I'll do the best I can to help Coach Atuaia get these boys ready, it's gonna be a fun training camp and I'm excited for the season!" - Manase Tonga
You read that right, Manase Tonga is back in Provo. I sat down with him on Thursday to talk about the transition and his future with BYU Football. I first wanted to know about his experience as an alum and former player. This summer we've heard a few players express their frustrations in how the school manages relationships with former players.
Tonga said "it's been nothing but love" when asked about this. He said he gets letters and notes from the coaching staff, and is welcomed with open arms anytime he steps foot on campus. He actually went a step further and said he feels like the coaching staff encourages former players to be more involved. Current players look up to the guys that have been through the program and sometimes will pay more attention to what they have to say than the coaches.
Many fans know that he left school for a career in the NFL and never finished his degree. In the last year, Bronco reached out to Tonga through Zach Nyborg the newly appointed Director of Football Operations. Bronco asked Tonga about his goals and learned that he wanted to finish school.
Coach made sure that he had all the help he needed, and working with Tom Holmoe and his staff, Tonga was able to get registered as a student and has moved his family to Provo. Coach Mendenhall offered him a position as a student assistant and he reports to camp on Friday.
Bronco takes a lot of heat for placing football as his fifth priority, but when you see him reaching out to former players and helping them like this, it puts things into perspective.
Tonga said, "Coach Atuaia is one of the hardest working and most energetic guys on the team, He's the right guy that they need in this offense."
Atuaia sets an example for his players through his work ethic and study habits. I asked him who fans should look out for in the next 2-3 years, after our current guys have graduated and he mentioned that Joshua Whippy from the BYU Rugby team will be padded up and trying out at Fall Camp. Joshua was a First Team All-American with Paul Lasike, but has a slightly different running style than Paul.
With an improved offensive line, great coaches and talented players like Jamaal, Alge, Paul and Adam, BYU's run game should be exciting to watch this year.
Coach Autuaia can be found on twitter @CoachAtuaia
Coach Tonga can be found on twitter @mtonga650