Utes starting guard Jordan Agasiva’s season will be filled with a lot of on-the-job training. The native of Hawaii and a junior college transfer may still be finding his footing, but he’s taken solace in that he’s already found a fit.
When the University of Utah football team makes its trip to Tucscon, Ariz., for Friday night’s Pac-12 Conference opener against the University of Arizona, Agasiva will return to the place where he spent two years turning himself into one of the top offensive line prospects in the country and laying the groundwork for him to land at Utah.
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Agasiva transferred to Utah from Pima Community College in Tucson, about 10 minutes up the road from Arizona – a school that never offered Agasiva a scholarship. Agasiva earned first-team all-region honors as a sophomore at Pima CC and ranked among the top 10 offensive line recruits in the nation this past offseason according to 247Sports and ESPN.com.
“Jordan was one of the best players in the country so you don’t get too many of them all the time,” Pima coach Jim Monaco said. “I’ve been around the program now going on 10 years, although we’ve had some great players and actually five or six go onto the NFL, Jordan is right up there.”
Agasiva had just one college scholarship offer out of high school, that being to the University of Hawaii. Utah won a recruiting battle for Agasiva that included the likes Alabama, Auburn, Oregon State and TCU.
A right tackle in junior college, Agasiva has made the transition to right guard. His presence necessitated the Utes moving senior co-captain and three-year starter Salesi Uhatafe to left guard this season. Through three games, Agasiva is tied for the second-most snaps played of any of the Utes linemen.
“At first it was weird, I was nervous the first game and whatnot,” Agasiva said of making the jump from junior college to Utah. “But I got everything out after the first game.”
Agasiva chose Utah in part because of the reputation of the program and offensive line coach Jim Harding of producing NFL-caliber linemen. The other big part of Agasiva’s decision came down to the atmosphere around the program and the number of Polynesian players. Utah has 32 Polynesia players on its roster.
“I know that for me every decision that I make and every decision that everyone in my family makes is all to better our family as a whole,” said Uhatafe, who is also of Polynesian descent. “I think what you see a lot of times with most teams, guys that are highly recruited or highly touted are all about themselves and how they can make themselves better and what they can do to make themselves better. But with our team, we’re all about how we can help each other to get better as a whole.”
In Hawaii, family surrounded Agasiva. Not only did he have five siblings, but he also had multiple generations of relatives within driving distance. Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents were never more than 45 minutes away.
Having something similar to that environment was a huge deal for him, that and the proximity of Utah to Hawaii compared with from Hawaii to Alabama. The shared culture and background among many of the Utah players was something that both Agasiva and his parents fell in love with when they visited the Utah campus and spent time around the players and staff.
“I really love how it is over here, how family-oriented is it. How everybody is pretty much family. Everybody pretty much accepts you as a brother. Not only that, but it was closer to home. Auburn was too far for my parents and my family to fly from Hawaii to watch one of my games. That was most definitely one of the big things too.”
Agasiva’s experience at Pima CC paved the way for him coming to Utah both on and off the field. He went to Pima primarily to become academically eligible by NCAA standards. Once his highlight tape from freshman year got around, schools came calling.
Agasiva also started shaping his body while at Pima. He arrived weighing more than 360 pounds. He got down to 340, but a foot injury slowed him down and caused him to put weight back on to the point that he played weighing approximately 350 pounds his sophomore season. He’s now down below 320 pounds.
Pima also got him to where he knew that he could make it so far away from his family.
“There were times I wanted to go home, but I found my why,” Agasiva said. “Why I wake up every morning. Why I do this. Why I put my body through all of this. That kind of kept me on track. I just had to go over my goals again.”
His why is actually two things. Agasiva loves playing football, and his parents had gone to great lengths to help him succeed. They paid part of his way to junior college, and even helped him get a car so he could get around. He knew he couldn’t give up on his goals and waste the sacrifices they’d made.
If he maxes out his ability, he may find himself in a position to more than repay his parents.
“I think potential is the number one killer of athletes,” Monaco said. “Everybody looks at potential and thinks its reality when, in fact, it means you have a high ceiling to achieve. But the work has to be there. Does Jordan have that? Oh my gosh, yes.
“He has everything that an NFL scout looks for. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s athletic. He’s well built. He has great feet. He’s got a great first punch. Does he have some inadequacies? Of course, but he has all the tools that you need to have.”