He once had a killer nickname, one that’s still used by some for him. And the second of four athletic boys from a West Valley City family, he’s also known as the quiet one.
“He takes quiet to another degree sometimes,” Utah State football coach Matt Wells said.
But Ian Togiai actually does have something to say as his senior year begins as a defensive end for the Aggies.
“Compared to last year, when we had all the seniors, we are coming out with a purpose,” Togiai said. “We know what we have to do to make up for last year.”
In Utah State’s three-win 2016 season, Togiai played in all 12 games and started five. And that makes him the dean of experienced Aggies defensive linemen coming into this season.
None of the other defensive end candidates has made a start in his career. “Besides our two nose guards, I’m the main one who has been playing,” Togiai said.
“I’m not a vocal leader. But when I do say something, the boys — they follow me,” he added. “When things aren’t going good, when we’re not running to the ball. When we’re feeling down, I would just kind of pick the boys up, and they usually follow my lead.”
That verbal exposition might surprise Togiai’s coaches back at Hunter High School.
Dustin Pearce, now head coach at Herriman, says he gave Togiai the nickname “The Silent Assassin” back when he was at Hunter.
“He’s really reserved, but always smiling,” Pearce said. “But he could go a hundred miles an hour.”
“He was stealthy, very soft-spoken,” said Scott Henderson, the Hunter coach with whom Togiai finished his Wolverines playing days. “But he could bring hellfire on the field. One step back, he’d make a lead [blocker] miss and, man, he was on it.”
Ian Togiai is the second of four sons for Kaio and Georgina Togiai. His younger brother Noah is a junior tight end with Oregon State. For Henderson, bringing out the leadership of Ian Togiai was sometimes a difficult task. On one occasion, he held up the start of practice until Ian said something to the team.
“He just stood there quietly, didn’t say anything for a while,” Henderson said. “Finally, he said something like, ‘Okay, let’s go.’ ”
The 6-foot-2, 280-pound Togiai last year finished with 11 solo tackles for Utah State, assisting on 27 others, and getting to the quarterback for a pair of sacks.
“We play a few D-linemen, but he’ll be right there. He should be one of the leaders of that group,” Wells said. “He’s a phenomenal young man, a tremendously hard worker. Great dad, great husband, takes care of his family and is going to graduate in three-and-a-half years.”
Despite the maturity needed for all of that, Togiai is still pulled by longtime pursuits. Rugby, for instance, holds a place in Togiai’s heart — especially when the chance to play comes up at family get-togethers.
“Oh yeah, all the time,” said Togiai about how often that happens. “I played just before training camp started, actually. Us and a couple of the football guys.”
And what would Wells say when he finds out about that?
“He’d probably tell us to stop so we won’t get hurt. He’d tell us to stop right now and focus on the season,” said Togiai, who added that was his full intention now that he’s wearing the Aggies uniform for one final campaign.