Butch Pau’u might not appear imposing on first glance. He’s just a 5-foot-10-inch and 220-pound sophomore.
But he’s become a key cog who’s making impact plays for the BYU defense and now his teammates are calling him “the Hammer.”
Why the Hammer? It stems from BYU’s close loss to UCLA on Sept. 17. Pau’u collected 19 tackles, tying him with Uani Unga for the most in a single game. Pau’u delivered forceful hits that were heard by everyone on the field — and occasionally over the radio and television broadcasts.
But the linebacker does it all with a smile on his face. He considers himself a happy hammer.
“I play happy,” Pau’u said. “I’m playing with guys that I love. I’m playing with guys that I’ve worked all season with and worked out with and I’ve come close to. So my mentality when I play is just to be relaxed and calm. When I get big hits, it’s just a smile because I know I’ve taken someone out for the team.”
The Hammer has been taking out a lot of opponents for his team. Pau’u currently has 42 tackles on the season after completing just eight total tackles in 2015. His ability to find and take down opposing players is one of the biggest reasons the Cougars and first-year defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki have been successful on defense.
Pau’u attributes his recent success on the field to his heartfelt love for the game and the way he was raised.
“My parents told me at a young age to play with a lot of heart,” Pau’u said. “They continue to remind us of our ancestors and the heart that they had just to be able to get here to America. So whenever I play, I know that the reason that I play is not only for myself or my teammates. It’s for my family and my ancestors.”
Pau’u’s teammates recognize his presence. Whether it’s his smile or a big hit, the Cougars take notice.
“Butch is a great player,” freshman defensive back Troy Warner said. “It’s always fun being around him because he’s always hitting guys and knowing how to tackle guys. We all kind of mold together and it helps each and every one of us play better.”
Perhaps the most striking part of Pau’u’s game is his humility. The linebacker thanks his mother for that trait.
“What’s nice is I have a mother who will text me and say, OK son, make sure you’re not reading any articles. Make sure you’re not paying attention to any of the media. Just make sure that you listen to my voice and not anyone else’s voice.’ So it’s nice I have a mom who’s always supportive and keeps me grounded and makes sure I’m not up in the skies and getting a big head or whatever,” Pau’u said.
“Thanks, mom,” he added with a smile.
Still, despite Pau’u’s success, there are critics saying his small size will catch up to him.
Pau’u is on a mission to prove them wrong.
“I feel like I still have a long way to go,” Pau’u said. “People are still going to doubt. People are going to say these were lucky games I had. I think what I have to do is continue to play my game and be able to show up on the field. I’ll let my actions speak for themselves.”
BYU football head coach said he wants his defense to make “impact plays” and “get out of drives.” The Cougars have certainly been able to do that this season as they are allowing just 22 points per contest.
Pau’u and the Cougars will travel to Michigan State to take on the Spartans on Oct. 8.