During his first two years with the BYU football team in 2014 and 2015, Sione Takitaki showed an impressive ability to be disruptive in opposing backfield. He tallied 6.5 sacks, 11 tackles for a loss and five quarterback hurries.
But he also ran into some tough times as he struggled to meet the rigid requirements of being a Cougar athlete.
When his wife Alyssa entered the picture in 2016, however, everything changed for the talented-but-troubled football player.
“She is an angel,” Takitaki said at Media Day on June 22. “I got lucky. I can go on for days about her. It’s been night-and-day difference. For a kid who had tons of problems like me, my wife is really religious and strong in her church. It’s been a blessing. I’ve so much time on my hands. I can get done everything I need to and I have such a strong support system at home. When I was single, I was all over the place. Now I can focus my time on what is important.”
He said that no matter what happens on the football field, that change in his life will be what he treasures most.
“I think when I leave BYU, I think the biggest thing I take from this place is my eternal companion here,” Takitaki said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
Don’t be surprised to see the more-focused, more-locked-in Takitaki end up elevating his game on the field as well.
During 2017, Takitaki was one of the most effective BYU defensive linemen (79 total tackles, five sacks, 12.5 tackles for a loss and four quarterback hurries).
Now he is taking his talent and athleticism back to the linebacker spot, which means taking on different responsibilities.
“I’m going to have to learn how to cover,” Takitaki said. “My cover skills are going to have to turn up a couple of notches. That’s what I have been focusing on in the offseason, working on covering guys, getting my hips right, making sure my footwork is nice so that when I go against the slot receivers, I’m able to run with them and make plays.”
He added that he still plans to disrupt opposing backfields.
“I’m still going to rush here and there,” Takitaki said. “I’m blitzing a lot.”
He looks at the transition as being one that won’t make things easier or harder; it will just be an adjustment to new benefits and challenges.
“It will be easier to come up and make tackles, not having to go against big linemen right on you up front,” Takitaki said. “But then it’s going to be difficult too because I have to drop into coverage and make sure I do my job there. It’s going to be the same. You’ve got to be where you are supposed to be and be there for the team.”
The philosophy of being there for the guys around you is one that Takitaki said is a driving force for BYU, particularly after the abysmal results in 2017.
“We are excited,” Takitaki said. “When you come off a 4-9 season, you want to give it your all so you leave something better. All the seniors have been working hard — the whole team has been working hard. When you come off a season like that, you have no choice but to work hard. You have to hit it straight on and attack every day. But I also want to enjoy my time with the team.”