BYU freshman OL Sione Veikoso dies unexpectedly during holiday break

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PROVO — The BYU football team is in mourning the night before New Year's Eve.

Sione Veikoso, a 6-foot-7, 305-pound offensive lineman who played in one game in 2022, died unexpectedly during the holiday break, BYU Athletics confirmed late Friday night.

The freshman transfer from Kailua, Hawaii, by way of Arizona State, was beloved on the team since transferring from Tempe, Arizona, last year and worked into the offensive line room that included NFL draft-bound linemen Harris LaChance and Joe Tukuafu, a sixth-year senior from East High who is a cousin.

"We are extremely saddened to learn of the tragic death of one of our brothers, Sione Veikoso," BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said in a statement after speaking with the player's family. "His passing is heartbreaking to all of us. We offer our deepest condolences and prayers to his family as we share in their grief. Our love for you is forever, Sione."

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe also expressed his condolences to Veikoso's family.

"The BYU football family mourns the passing of our dear teammate and fellow Cougar, Sione Veikoso," Holmoe tweeted. "May his family and friends feel our love and faith at this most sacred and difficult time. Peace be with you now and forever, Sione."

"(Veikoso) came to work everyday with a positive attitude and went hard EVERYDAY literally, but more than that he was a great human being," added former BYU graduate assistant DJ Williams, who recently took his first collegiate job as cornerbacks coach at Northern Colorado. "Prayers out to all his loved ones. Don't take this life for granted. Tell your people you love them."

BYU said Veikoso died in a "tragic construction accident" near his hometown of Kailua, Hawaii, on Friday. BYU students were set to report back for winter semester classes on Monday, Jan. 9.

Veikoso, 22, was killed and three others injured when a 15-foot retaining rock wall collapsed at a construction site in Kailua, the Honolulu Fire Department told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Family members later identified the deceased as Veikoso.

"He was a gentle giant who loved his family. He was reliable and caring," Veikoso's cousin, Joshua Kava, told the newspaper in a written statement.

Veikoso is survived by two sisters, Mele and Sanimata, and a brother, also named Sione, the cousin added.

Veikoso served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Manaus, Brazil, from 2018-20 and returned to Arizona State upon his return. He played in just one game while redshirting the 2021 season before transferring to BYU in July of this past year with four seasons of eligibility remaining. After playing in one game, a 52-26 win over FCS Utah Tech in the regular-season home finale, Veikoso was expected to compete for a starting spot with the departures of LaChance and Tukuafu, transfers of Campbell and Clark Barrington, and expected departure of left tackle Blake Freeland to the NFL draft.

He was listed on the two-deep depth chart behind Freeland for the Cougars' New Mexico Bowl game against SMU, a game the Cougars won 24-23 before dispersing from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The son of Sione Veikoso and Wendy Kava, who died seven years ago of a brain aneurysm, had a cousin Sione Kava who played defensive tackle at Oregon in 2018-19, and another cousin Isi Sofele who played running back at Cal from 2009-12. A lover of anime and his faith, Veikoso was recruited by Arizona State, BYU, Oregon State and Washington State out of high school.

BYU Athletics has organized a GoFundMe* to help Veikoso's family cover the unexpected funeral and memorial costs. Fans and other interested parties are encouraged to donate there to benefit the family, if they wish.

* does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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