“Overall I think my team did extremely well,” Trajan Pili said. “We made our goal of making the region championship, which is the first time in Centennial High School history. We beat our two rivals Arbor View and Palo Verde, so I’m happy for the overall season. I wish we could have come out with the win in the end, but we lost to Bishop Gorman in the state playoffs. We turned the ball over four times in the first half and lost 59-7. Still, we made region and, like I said, that was the first time in school history.”
In addition to his team having a solid season, Pili saw a lot of individual success.
“Personally, I made all of my personal goals that I had for the season,” said Pili. “I made all-conference as a defensive end and tight end. I’m hoping to get all-region and all-state, but those honors haven’t come out yet. I have a strong belief that I’ll be on those teams when they come out with those honors as well.”
Meanwhile, Pili has continued to be in contact with Cougar coaches.
“I talked to Coach Tidwell and he’s going to fly out on Wednesday, and then he’s going to come and we’re going to have an in-home visit on Thursday,” said Pili. “I’m excited to see him. I can’t wait.”
Pili has watched BYU’s defense dominate on the field all season long. As for the secret to the Cougars’ defensive success, he said, “I just think it’s the passion that they play with. One play that really stood out to me was when they held Boise State on the goal line earlier in the season. Then that’s when you see Bronco going crazy on the sidelines. Then the whole defense went crazy and that really stood out to me. They just play with a passion.”
When he finally gets to BYU, Pili will be a member of the linebacker corps.
“I’m being recruited by Coach Tidwell, but when I get to BYU I’m going to be playing outside linebacker, so Coach Poppinga will be my coach when I get there,” he said. “The rumors have been Will side, but I’m ready to play either side. I’m just want to get on the field and help the team as best I can, but the rumors I’m hearing have been that I’ll play the Will side linebacker. I’m just happy either way.”
Along with speed, linebackers need to have size to take on those big boys protecting the quarterback’s blindside.
“I’ve put on about 10 pounds and weigh 225 pounds right now at 6’2”,” said Pili. “I still have my speed and I’m hoping to be about 235 by the time I get up to BYU, so I have to work hard this offseason to get there.”
Pili’s great relationship with Coach Tidwell is evident, but what does he think about being coached by Coach Poppinga?
“Oh man, I’m excited,” he said. “At a camp, Coach Poppinga really stood out to me because he’s really knowledgeable about the game and about the outside linebacker position. I’m grateful that I’ve had Coach Tidwell be my recruiter out here, and in the same way I’m just excited that I can have someone like Coach Poppinga be my coach and example. These guys will help me be both a good person and player when I get out there.”
Pili’s excitement to have Coach Poppinga as his position coach came after seeing him in action one day at a camp.
“He’s real intense,” Pili said. “I saw that the first day and knew he was going to be that way after seeing him coach. Personally, I like that in a coach. He’s real intense out there on the practice field and it shows in the way his players play. I’m excited.”
Given the results Pili has produced as a defensive end, there’s no doubt that Coach Poppinga has to be excited about the prospect of molding him into a formidable outside linebacker as well.
“For this year, I had around 70 tackles from the defensive end position,” Pili said. “I had seven sacks, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and two pass deflections.”
Seventy tackles as a defensive end is very impressive, but Pili was a two-way player for Centennial High School, so his senior season stats don’t end there.
“On offense I had 200 yards on 12 catches and two touchdowns from the tight end position,” he said.
Pili committed to BYU early on in his junior year. Since then, many Division I colleges have come knocking.
“Yeah, actually there have been a few,” Pili said. “They’ve told me that in order for them to offer me, they want me to decommit from BYU for them to offer me. But that’s not going to happen because I want to stay solid on BYU. I just want to go play for BYU personally. It’s a top-ranked defense, love the place, nice spiritual atmosphere, and I can’t wait to get there.”
Most of the schools that have come after Pili reside in the Pac-12.
“Well, Stanford has and Washington has come after me,” said Pili. “Cal Berkley and Utah State and Hawaii have been the main colleges that have been coming after me. They were all pretty serious about offering me if I decommitted first, but like I said, I’m pretty solid on BYU and I’m staying committed.”
Those programs were looking to have Pili play the same position that BYU wants him to play.
“What they were all telling me is that they wanted me to play linebacker. You know, pretty much the same position that BYU wants me to play,” he said. “That’s what the coaches from those teams were pretty much saying.”
However, trying to pry Pili away from BYU hasn’t worked, especially after seeing how well Coach Mendenhall’s defense has played this season.
“I’m just honored that the BYU coaching staff offered me to be a part of that defense,” Pili said. “I know everybody there works hard, and that means I’ll have to work even harder. It really is an honor that they think I can come in and be a part of holding up the standard of a top-ranked defense. I’m really thankful for that and can’t wait to get out there for next season.
“I’m just lucky enough to go to BYU and play as a linebacker and be a part of a defense that was ranked, what, number four I believe? I’m just excited to be on that defense. I know Coach Kaufusi, Coach Poppinga, Coach Mendenhall, Coach Howell and Coach Tidwell are really good coaches and I’m excited to be coached by them.”