The Gonzaga Bulldogs have Corbin Kaufusi right where they want him — playing only football for BYU.
Kaufusi is giving up college basketball in the interest of a more stable lifestyle, in contrast to the annual regimen he described as "either running to death or … eating to death" as he tried to reshape his body for each sport. The Cougar defensive end is heavier and apparently shorter now. He's listed at 6 foot 9, 285 pounds on the football roster, after being 6-10, 260 in basketball.
He made a lasting impact against Gonzaga, with a record that may never be broken by BYU or any other West Coast Conference team. Kaufusi went unbeaten in three visits to Spokane, Wash.
He averaged 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in those upsets, far exceeding his usual production on the court. Kaufusi scored only 10 points all season for the Cougars in 2016-17, but four of them came at Gonzaga. His second rebound basket of the game gave BYU a four-point lead in the last minute of a 79-71 victory over the previously unbeaten Zags in late February.
No wonder "Kaufusi for Mayor" signs popped up in Provo. As it turns out, Danny Ainge is not the only sports figure with a relative who's campaigning in Utah. Kaufusi's mother, Michelle, is among nine candidates competing in Provo's mayoral primary election Aug. 15.
"I don't know a ton about politics," Corbin Kaufusi said, "but I know she does, so I'll just do whatever she tells me."
Same story with his father, although Steve Kaufusi no longer is his position coach. The longtime assistant coach is working with the BYU linebackers this season, with defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki taking the linemen. "Pros and cons, definitely," Corbin Kaufusi said with a laugh. "I think I'll always be coached by my dad in some way, shape or form."
Steve Kaufusi claims to have less influence than you might believe, although he endorses his son's plan to specialize in football. "You let your kids make those choices for themselves," he said, "[but] I'm glad he finally decided to do just one thing."
He once pictured his son as an offensive lineman, with his long arms and athletic ability, but Corbin followed his brother, Bronson, as a defender. Bronson Kaufusi, who also played basketball for BYU, became a third-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2016. He missed all of his rookie season after breaking his ankle in training camp, but the Ravens like his skills.
Corbin Kaufusi is said to have that kind of NFL potential as he enters his junior season of football eligibility. Having signed with BYU to play football, he chose basketball in 2014 after he kept growing during a church mission to South Korea. He joined the football team last season and appeared in every game with five starts, recording 21/2 sacks and blocking two kicks as he relied mostly on natural pass-rushing ability.
"He's got so much talent," BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. "We still haven't seen all of it yet."
Sitake said Kaufusi's devotion to football preparation in the summer has been "helpful already," enabling him to get bigger and stronger. And then he'll have a full offseason of weight lifting and conditioning without having to trim down for basketball.
Kaufusi will miss his basketball teammates and the experience of competing in venues such as Gonzaga's McCarthey Athletic Center, where the Cougars consistently managed to subdue the home crowd. He'll always remember some "hostile moments up there," he said, "but I love that."
In football, the Cougars will have a similar experience in October at Mississippi State, a Southeastern Conference school known for its cowbell-ringing fans in a 61,000-seat stadium. The comforting part for Kaufusi and the Cougars? MSU also is nicknamed the Bulldogs.