Why three of BYU football’s transfers chose the Cougars
With the expanding use of the transfer portal and the relaxing of restrictions, college sports have been inundated with athletes hoping a change of scenery will improve their opportunities.
According to BestColleges.com, 4,084 Division I football players (including FBS and FCS divisions) entered the transfer portal during the 2021 academic year, a significant increase from the 2,868 who entered in 2021.
And many expect the numbers to keep rising.
The BYU football program has had players both transfer out and transfer in, although the numbers haven’t been as dramatic as they have been at other places.
Why did they change schools? And why did those who transferred in chose to come to Provo?
This past week, three high-profile Cougar transfers talked about what went into their decisions.
Here are their stories:
Houston Heimuli, Sr. FB
After an excellent career at Stanford, Heimuli said he got to thinking about about how his time in college football was coming to an end.
“I’m a BYU boy at heart,” Heimuli said on Wednesday. “Any chance I had, I came back here. In my head, I knew that if I wanted to keep playing college football, I wanted to come to BYU. I was not going to go anywhere else. I just waited for my avenue to open. (Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake) said, ‘hey, we want to have you here.’ I took my chance to be here.”
Heimuli grinned as he talked about being at BYU, since it is a legacy experience for him.
“This is home,” Heimuli said. “I grew up on BYU football since I was a kid. I first discovered football with my dad (former Cougar star running back Lakei Heimuli). He had his old highlights and as a kid, I was like, oh my gosh this is so cool. The one I always had was the 1984 season (when BYU won the national championship). It was a huge compilation and I still have that thing memorized.”
His familiarity with what the Cougar program was all about has made his transition pretty straightforward, Houston Heimuli said.
“It wasn’t much of a shake-up,” Houston Heimuli said. “We do things differently compared to other schools. I still kept up with BYU when I was at Stanford.”
With just one season to play, Houston Heimuli wants to make the most of his opportunities and his certainly focused almost completely on the opener against South Florida.
He did admit, however, that he has thought a little bit about what it will be like when the Cougars play their final regular season game at Stanford.
“It’s going to be my hometown team against the home school I was at,” Houston Heimuli said. “It’s going to be very surreal.”
Kingsley Suamataia, Fr. OL
After going to Oregon following a tremendous career at Orem High, Suamataia said Monday that he found himself not liking what he was seeing in his life.
“For me, it was a no brainer,” Suamataia said. “I started losing track of things I value before I left, and so I came back to things I value like church and saying prayers, the small stuff. I knew where I wanted to come back to, to be home here.”
Suamataia’s former Orem teammate, Puka Nacua, said he’s seeing the freshman lineman be a lot happier since he came to BYU.
“I think it comes down from Coach Kalani (Sitake), and being at BYU this is the way we run things,” Nacua said. “It allows guys to be who they are. It’s OK to have conversations about things outside of football. Some of the things you talk about outside of football impacts how we do when we are playing football. It’s a huge blessing, for sure.”
Gabe Jeudy-Lally, So. DB
The former Vanderbilt starter has the fewest connections to BYU, so in some ways that makes his decision the most intriguing.
“I didn’t win a lot of games before I came over here,” Jeudy-Lally said on Monday. “With BYU’s culture and just talking to everybody, they always believe they’re going to win regardless of who they’re going to play, which is really great. It’s showed in the last couple of years. If you’re wanting to come to a place where you are going to get treated like family and win football games, I think this is spot to be at.”
Considering how different BYU than other schools, it might be easy for some to question their choice at some point. Jeudy-Lally said he had some rough times in the first little bit but didn’t look backward.
“I’m never gonna count something out when I first get there,” Jeudy-Lally said. “When I first got here, I wasn’t allowed to work out yet because I hadn’t been accepted in the MBA program. So I was just sitting around at home and I was just like, gosh, what am I supposed to do? But since I got to work out with the team, everybody’s been super nice. It’s nice to be part of the family and so I’m definitely not second guessing my decision at all.”
As a Commodore, Jeudy-Lally played three seasons against SEC competition, which is widely-regarded as the best in the country. That gives him a unique perspective on how BYU matches up talent-wise.
“I think they match up pretty well,” Jeudy-Lally said. “The only difference I’ll say across the country is like when you go when you play in the SEC, the big guys are just faster. But BYU’s got way bigger boys here on the line that we did at Vanderbilt. Sometimes I’m like, whoa. But the talent level is very comparable, and I’m just excited to be able to play with these guys this upcoming season.”