Osa Masina continues to adapt to the onslaught of attention, and with that he's learned to smile with the best of them.
He's had to learn that acquired skill due to his still-emerging talent and evolving resume he's made for himself as a star at Brighton High School. People know him, and those who don't know him want to. Masina, a 16-year-old 6-foot-41/2-inch, 225-pound tailback and linebacker, is sought after by programs such as Michigan, Stanford, USC, Utah and Notre Dame.
Those are just a handful of the list, which continues to sprout.
But more than the recruitment rankings or the wooing by some of the country's more storied college football programs, Masina's 2013 campaign showcased his ability, a canvas blank in August, eventually filled with touchdown runs and tackles for loss and designed wildcat quarterback schemes.
Masina, the 2013 All-Tribune team Most Valuable Player, wowed nearly every week on a Bengals team that went 13-1 and marched to the Class 5A final against region rival Bingham. He rushed for 1,683 yards on 224 carries and 25 touchdowns, good enough for 7.5 yards per carry. On defense, he had 57 total tackles, 2.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.
"I knew he had it in him," said Osa's mother, Tamina. "I think he did better than expected still, but I think that's because the team all rallied behind him, and I think it showcased him because the team was so good."
It was, in sports speak, the definition of a breakout season for a player waiting to break out.
Watching older brother Uaea lead Brighton offensively during his senior season, Osa's prominent roles were Wildcat quarterback on offense and being the key blitzing linebacker on defense.
So he found the weights in the summer.
Suddenly, the 6-3, 185-pounder was bulked up. He gained 35 pounds between the end of the 2012 season and Brighton's 13-1 campaign, which ended in the 5A title game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Nov. 22. The muscle allowed him to take the hits and muscle off defenders during his 25 touchdowns in 2013.
"I knew I was going to be the starting tailback for us this year," Masina said. "I knew I was going to get a lot of carries, which I did. I knew the coaches were going to trust me to give me carries every game they did and it was just a whole lot of fun just every snap going at it."
Brighton coach Ryan Bullett said Masina's drive was further fine-tuned by the work off the field and in the weight room.
"He put his hard hat on and brought his lunch pail every day," Bullett said. "He lifts every day, and he just shows how serious he is. He wants to be the best player. You could tell by what he's still doing in the weight room."
Bullett describes his star as methodical in his routine, whether it's prepping for track and field in the spring or going to classes at Brighton with recruiters from certain schools on hand.
"He's always in the front row," Bullett said. "That's where he wants to be."
Yet making another run for a 5A title in 2014 is Masina's goal, albeit the Bengals, having lost loads of talent to graduation, will be a different team next season.
"We came up short," he said, "but just to get there and have the season that we had with all our seniors and the coaches was just an unbelievable experience."
Brighton RB/LB Osa Masina:
1,683 yards rushing
7.5 yards per carry
Total tackles • 57
Solo tackles • 33
Assisted tackles • 40
Sacks • 2.5
Tackles for loss • 8.5