Provo • Although not dressed for practice, a familiar face made his return to the Cougars on Monday for the start of spring football.
Almost a year after being arrested on campus for driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of 0.147 and interfering with signs and signals, Neil Pau'u is ready to get back on the field for BYU. But he'll have to wait.
The redshirt junior was ready to go for Monday, but his paperwork wasn't. Besides needing the paperwork to be filed, the insurance had yet to be claimed.
Pau’u described the last year on probation as tough and lonely, but it served as a good opportunity to try and figure some things out, especially outside of football.
“You definitely learn a lot, just about yourself,” Pau'u said. “You have the strength of your family, friends, which first and foremost, I want to thank everyone along the process from when it happened in June, to where I am now.”
Although the thought of leaving BYU did come across Pau’u’s mind, it never lingered long. His older brother Butch, a former BYU linebacker and current assistant coach at Snow College, advised him to stay. As did BYU coach Kalani Sitake.
Pau'u credits his coach as the biggest reason why he chose to stay in Provo.
So, the California native started trying to improve himself and grow from his mistakes. Besides getting a new job to get finances in order, and catching up on schoolwork, Pau'u also found a flag football team to join and played basketball twice a week with a group of friends.
“I'm proud of him,” Sitake said. “I'm just really proud of the stuff he's done in this past year, and I'm really excited that he can get back on the field and play and contribute to this team – a lot like he's been doing within the community this past year.”
Two years ago, Pau'u caught for 216 yards on 18 receptions and one touchdown, getting the bulk of that yardage in the latter half of the season. And with Zach Wilson at quarterback.
Wilson, who’s in a three-way battle for the starting QB job next season, is excited to have Pau’u back, especially because he still has two years of eligibility left.
“He's a threat,” Wilson said. “We can use him at any angle. He's gotten a lot quicker, really smooth receiver [and] he adjusts really well. I think it's going to be huge to have him back out on the field.”
Besides what Pau'u will add to the Cougars on the field, his own experiences are proving to be helpful to another teammate dealing with a similar case.
Less than a month ago, linebacker Chaz Ah You was arrested on suspicion of DUI after police found containers of alcohol and a THC vape pen in his vehicle. Ah You was pulled over for going 75 in a 35 mph zone, reckless driving, unsafe lane travel and speeding.
Pau'u has been able to relate to not just Ah You, but other people dealing with similar situations and helped them through it as well.
“There’s friends from back home and friends that I’ve made out here that hit me up about their own situations with DUIs,” Pau’u said. “It’s been cool just to be able to relate, not only the process, but then the learning pains that go with it, and if they’re serious about overcoming that. It’s been super, super cool to be able to find certain people that are not part of football, certain girls that they’ve been able to overcome it as well.”
As far as Ah You's status on the team, he is listed on the spring roster, but will not be participating in practice.
“I love Chaz, and obviously he’s part of the team,” Sitake said. “He’s here, but he’s not going to be participating in spring, and he has to go through a process. That’s probably the most I can say right now. I think it would be inappropriate for me to say more than that. We love him and we’ll support him as much as we can.”