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With three members of the staff forced to sit on the floor, coach Kyle Whittingham planted himself on an end of the couch and extolled the values of being close to home and the LDS Church culture, as wells as the deep Polynesian influence within the program.
Sefita Fanaika is a native of Tonga who attended the University of the South Pacific. He told his son nothing would match a Stanford education. However, even he was temporarily moved by Whittingham.
» Pleasant Grove star Brandon Fanaika signs with Stanford, despite thinking over the weekend that he might spurn the Cardinal for Utah.
» Fanaika was rated as the No. 1 high school prospect in Utah byrivals.com.
» Fanaika originally committed to Stanford in December, but reconsidered after taking official visits to in-state schools, including Utah.
» The Utes made a strong late push for the lineman. Coach Kyle Whittingham and six assistants made an in-home visit Saturday to try to win him over.
"I told him, ‘I’m sold,’" Sefita Fanaika said. "They were all pitching to Brandon and I said ‘I’m sold.’"
Navu Fanaika rolled her eyes.
"My husband committed on Saturday," she said. "When they left I told him to decommit."
The parents stuck to their guns and encouraged Fanaika to go to Stanford, despite their overflowing respect for the Utah staff.
At Stanford, you’re not just a football player, Navu Fanaika told her son.
"You could be in the room with the next Bill Gates," his father added.
But Fanaika was drawn to Utah. At one point he told his friend, Hansen, that he intended to join him with the Utes.
"I know he’s put a lot of thought into this decision," Hansen said. "Almost too much, where it’s been a lot for him."
As Tuesday evening drew to a close, Fanaika said he would go to sleep and wake with a decision.
When Fanaika teased his family, friends and Utah fans by saying, "I gotta stay close to home..." the room’s collective pulse quickened.
But then, the drawn-out process was over.
"I almost thought for a second that I was going to be a Ute," Fanaika said.
It took too much work, he said, to get noticed by Stanford and to meet the rigorous academic standards.
"I woke up this morning and I just knew that I had to be at Stanford," he said.
His mother wiped away tears and dropped a string of Stanford beads around Fanaika’s neck.
"Now," she said, "I can breathe well. Now I can rest."
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