BYU football a ‘family affair’

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Sione Takitaki looks onward as the Cougars lifted their record to 4-3 on the season against Hawai’i. (Claire Gentry)

Many family trees have spread their roots into Cougar territory over the years. More than 30 players on the current roster have some sort of family connection to the program, including eight sets of brothers, a number of cousins and a few sons of former players.

A few family connections include brothers Brayden and Bracken El Bakri, Neil and Butch Pau’u, Adam and Addison Pulsipher, and Gunner and Baylor Romney; cousins Aleva Hifo and Sione Takitaki, Beau and Tristen Hoge, and Koy and Mitch Harris.

Other players who have had family play for BYU football include Troy Warner, brother of former Cougar Fred Warner; KJ and Jaren Hall, sons of former Cougar Kalin Hall; Motekiai Langi, cousin of former Cougar Harvey Langi; Morgan Unga, cousin of former Cougar Harvey Unga; James Empey, son of former Cougar player and coach Mike Empey; Matthew Criddle, brother of former Cougar Ben Criddle; and Gavin Fowler, third generation Cougar and son of former quarterback Blaine Fowler, a member of the 1984 National Championship team.

Cousins Isaiah and Corbin Kaufusi celebrate after a defensive stop against Hawaii on Oct. 13. The Kaufusi family is one of many with ties to BYU football. (Claire Gentry)

The Kaufusi family has also been a long staple of the Cougar defense, currently featuring brothers Corbin and Devin Kaufusi and their cousins Isaiah and Jackson. Corbin and Devin’s brother Bronson starred at BYU from 2012–15, and their father, Steve, played from 1985–87 and formerly served as the defensive line coach.

“(BYU) means everything to us. It’s a family affair,” said Corbin Kaufusi, the senior defensive end. “A lot of my cousins, myself and my brothers were all looking at other schools, and there were definitely opportunities to go to big-name programs, but when it comes down to it, BYU is just unique because of that whole family aspect. Even if I didn’t have family here, you feel like you’re a part of a family.”

Dylan Collie runs to the Cougar sidelines during the game against Hawai’i, his previous school. (Claire Gentry)

Wide receiver Dylan Collie, a graduate transfer from Hawaii, comes from a strong tradition of pass-catchers. His brothers Zac and Austin played receiver for the Cougars in the early 2000s and their father Scott from 1978–82. Dylan recorded the Collie family’s 300th career reception earlier this season against Wisconsin.

“There’s a lot of love here, and to be a part of this team, culture and everything it means to the fans makes (BYU) one of the greatest places in college football,” Dylan said. “Ultimately, (transferring from Hawaii) came down to my comfort and where I felt was the best place I could be, and this was it. Coming back is definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Austin Collie left BYU as one of the most decorated receivers in school history, spending five years in the NFL primarily with the Indianapolis Colts as one of Peyton Manning’s favorite targets. Scott Collie played a few seasons in the Canadian Football League and enjoyed the luxury of catching passes from legendary Cougar quarterbacks Jim McMahon and Steve Young during his college career.

“There’s a reason why those guys are Hall of Fame quarterbacks and Super Bowl champions. It all started when they were here,” Dylan said. “Just being able to know that (my dad) was one of those guys that they relied on really sets a precedent for us as his boys. It’s a sweet experience.”

Freshman tight end Hank Tuipulotu comes from a rich BYU bloodline, with his father Peter playing running back from 1987–91 and his mother, Mo, playing on the women’s basketball team during the same period. Hank’s brother Ben, a teammate at Nation Ford High School in South Carolina, is currently serving his mission and will join the Cougars in 2020.

“My dad played here, and my mom played basketball here, so there was definitely a big push for BYU,” Hank said. “Growing up, my dad would critique every BYU game with us, telling us what they were doing right or wrong which helped us in our high school games. Whenever they came out to the East Coast, we were always there. I’ve wanted to be at BYU my whole life. This is my dream.”

Peter Tuipulotu played his entire career for legendary head coach LaVell Edwards, and Hank reflected on the respect his father has for the late BYU hero.

“My dad loved LaVell,” Hank said. “He always said how much of an all-around great person he was and how much he cared about him and all his teammates.”

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