This former BYU and NFL football player will lead Utah’s second-largest city. How did he get here?

Ifo Pili starred on BYU’s defensive line in the early 2000s. After three stints with NFL teams, he moved into public service, following in his father’s footsteps.

(West Valley City) Incoming West Valley City Manager and former Brigham Young University defensive lineman Ifo Pili.

He starred for Brigham Young University’s football team and won a spot in the NFL as a defensive lineman. Now he’s ready to quarterback Utah’s second-largest city.

Ifo Pili, an early 2000s standout for the Cougars, is eager to tackle issues of growth and economic development as West Valley City’s new city manager.

It’s the next step in a career that’s included a stop with the Houston Texans, a Super Bowl run with the Philadelphia Eagles, and a stint with the New England Patriots.

Since ending his football career in 2006, though, he’s taught local government management at his alma mater and served as Eagle Mountain’s city administrator. He joins West Valley City (population 137,000) after more than three years working as the city manager of similarly sized Las Cruces, New Mexico.

It may seem like an odd career trajectory for an ex-pro, but Pili said a pivot to public service was always part of the game plan.

“Government has always been in my sights,” Pili said. “I knew that’s what I was going to do after I played football.”

That’s in large part due to his father, Falemao “Phil” Pili, who once told him that “it’s not OK to sit on the sidelines and watch.”

“I grew up in American Samoa, where he spent most of his life serving in public office or working for the government,” Pili said. “That’s where my interest came from, anyway, going all the way back that far.”

The elder Pili was a member of the American Samoa House of Representatives and also served as the chief financial officer for American Samoa Community College. At the time of his death in 2014, he was working as the territory’s treasurer.

When he was in the hospital right before his death, he even asked Ifo to help him run budget projections for the government.

The younger Pili is now set to manage a city almost three times the size of American Samoa. A couple of factors drew him to the job.

First, all of his siblings live in Utah and his children soon will be going to BYU.

Second, he characterized West Valley City as historically well-managed and said he loves its diversity compared to the rest of the Beehive State. The western suburb is 43% white, 42% Latino, 10% multiracial and 4% Pacific Islander, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The city has been so well-run, he said, it has no general obligation debt.

Pili is subbing in for a longtime West Valley City player. Recently retired City Manager Wayne Pyle logged more than two decades at the city’s helm, overseeing its transformation in density and diversity.

Pili specifically highlighted the city’s industrial parks and their potential to grow. He also said there are revitalization opportunities in the city, especially downtown.

The city manager, an appointee who oversees day-to-day operations, is the City Council’s only employee and is tasked with carrying out the elected body’s legislation. Pili said he’s looking forward to working with the council when he arrives in early April.

His total compensation package will be at least $351,000.