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This week's opening game versus Washington will be watched closely by Sikahemas on both coasts.
You see, my nephew Jarrett Finau, my younger sister's oldest son, has verbally committed to play football for the Huskies. He's coached by my brother, Kap. They all live in Seattle. I live in the east.
Jarrett is a 6'4" 240-pound DE/TE who runs a 4.6 40, has long arms, "gynormous" hands and incredible instincts. Look him up on YouTube and watch for yourself. He's impressive.
So why is he headed to UW?
Jarrett was injured a good portion of his junior season last year and wasn't on anyone's radar, although he was exceptional in the games in which he did play. So to maximize his exposure, my sister Lynette and brother-in-law, Paul, enrolled Jarrett at various camps this summer that started with USC, Stanford, Washington, Oregon State and BYU, in that order. Right from the jump at 'SC, he posted eye-popping numbers in the 40, shuttle runs and dominated in the one-on-one drills. Lynette told me before Jarrett even got back to Seattle, Steve Sarkisian had already contacted their home. On that initial call, Sarkisian learned Lynette is a Sikahema and a doctoral candidate at none other than, you guessed it, U-dub. They say information is power, well, Sark got a power-surge from the info he culled in that conversation.
Sarkisian was already impressed with Jarrett's size and speed, but now he knew something else - Jarrett has the kind of pedigree coaches' drool over: athletic genes, a warrior heritage, a parent in academia (Lynette is a high school English teacher) and the kind of young man who is mission bound. Better yet, he grew an inch and 10 pounds this summer from 6'3" 230 to 6'4" 240-pounds and still growing. Jarrett has also benefitted from a personal trainer who, for a couple of years, has taught him martial arts and boxing - intended to sharpen his hand-to-hand combat skills, quicken his feet and reaction time, not to mention his mental and physical toughness. This kid is a trained killer, but off the field he's humble, respectful, studious, obedient and quiet as a church mouse.
So, when Jarrett arrived at the UW camp, wouldn't you know Sark rolled out the red carpet? What a shocker. Lynette told me Sark invited Jarrett into his spacious office that overlooks Huskie Stadium and really laid it on thick. He supposedly said to him, "Jarrett, I know you grew up watching BYU football and once you get to Provo, they'll increase the pressure on you. Just know that I LOVE BYU. I was a Cougar like your uncles (my younger brother was a backup DB 1988-92) and loved every minute of it. But, I'm here in Washington now and you grew up in Seattle. I'm a Huskie and guess what.... so is your mother! Who is more important to you, your uncles or your mom?"
As luck would have it, Jarrett's last stop was BYU, often regarded an advantage by some recruiters, but not so here. Because of BYU's penchant for getting early commitments and juggling those who are mission-bound and RM's, scholarships were limited when Jarrett made his visit to Provo. So, while the Pac-10 schools were offering, BYU didn't have a scholarship handy when my nephew visited. Disappointed, he left Provo without the offer he was expecting.
When he got home, Washington became even more attractive. The deal was closed once Sarkisian committed to Jarrett that he's open to having his LDS players serve missions.
As they say, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
BYU did finally shake loose a scholarship, but by then, Jarrett had already verbally committed to Sarkisian and UW. Jarrett is the kind of kid who will succeed and serve a mission whether he's at BYU or Washington.
Still, I'm heartsick he may not experience the BYU "magic" that I've written about. Sure, he doesn't need BYU to use his priesthood and have a great college experience. I have great admiration for our LDS kids who live their religion and are exemplary at other places. But there is something special and unique about Brigham Young University that's hard for me to define unless you're a part of it.
My sister tells me that as a 17 year old Jarrett may still change his mind before he has to sign a letter-of-intent. After all, if he gets hurt during his senior season, UW could still rescind their offer. Happens all time both ways. Something similar happened to me. I had verbally committed to Arizona State but they fired their Head Coach Frank Kush prior to the signing date so I went with BYU. Obviously, nothing is binding until you sign.
The clock is ticking, however. An honor student, Jarrett is expected to graduate in December and enroll in college in January so he can play spring football. Saturday's game is very important to our family. A lot is riding on it.
It might surprise many of you that until I signed with BYU, I HATED BYU. Even after I arrived in Provo, my overall football experience at BYU wasn't so great. Yet, something profound happened to me during the BYU years that I doubt would've happened anywhere else. For others it does all the time, but given my own personal circumstance, I don't think it could've happened anywhere but BYU. That's why I carry the banner.