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Prep football: Bingham's Jay Tufele commits to Southern California on emotional day for family

Published February 1, 2017 11:48 pm

Bingham High's star senior defensive lineman Jay Tufele chooses USC over dozens of other offers, shares realization of dream with family.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

South Jordan • Moments after Bingham's five-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele, arguably one of the best prep football players in Utah preps history, pulled a maroon USC hat snuggly over his head on national signing day, he gazed out into the darkened auditorium.

He had waited for this moment his entire life. At times it felt as if it never would come. Shaking with emotion, Tufele finally had accomplished his dream — one motivated by the people he was searching for:

His parents.

Tufele's father, Line, underwent five double-bypass heart surgeries less than a year ago. It left his disabled and unable to work. His mother, Salega, took over as his full-time caretaker. With both parents out of work, the family's financial situation was dire. The income was not enough to survive.

"It's been really tough. It's really opened up my mind on things," Jay said. "It's motivated me to work as hard as I can and not take anything for granted. My dad has been my No. 1 fan all through life, I just wanted to do what's best and whatever I can to help."

So Tufele and his siblings, specifically his older sister, Ilovea Toli, huddled together. Their parents had raised them, now it was time to repay them.

"We all chipped in," said Jay's younger brother, L.J.

"It hasn't been easy, but I know my role as the oldest," Toli said. "In our culture, it's a big responsibility to always take care of our parents because they've taken care of us."

The children contributed to the family's financial responsibility by working various jobs. As an airport employee, Toli inherited the largest portion of the bills, paying for rent, groceries and medical expenses.

"It's what is embodied in our culture. When your parents aren't doing the best — the best you can do is help out your family," Jay said. "I'm really proud of my sisters. I look up to them. I really appreciate everything they've done. They've done an amazing job."

Toli's sacrifice allowed Jay to continue playing football. He excelled on the gridiron. As a junior, he was named The Tribune's Player of the Year in 2015. Considered a five-star prospect, he narrowed his choices to USC, Utah, Ohio State, Michigan and BYU.

In the end, it was between the Trojans and the Utes. Two days before national signing day, Jay made the decision with his family to head for Southern California. He'll enroll in June.

"It means the world to me to be able to have the chance to know I can go exceed and excel," Jay said. "It means the world to be able to help my family, and this is just the beginning. This is the first step to the goal I want to get to."

Wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers pullover, Line was able to attend the ceremony. His heath is on the rise, though he's still recovering.

"I'm so thankful. It's unbelievable," he said about being able to see his son's dream come true. "My children, I'm so happy. They bring me back."

As spectators trickled out of the auditorium, they huddled together for a group photo. It was a moment that didn't seem possible. Yet here they were, all healthy, embracing each other in pure happiness.

"It all opened our eyes," Toli said with tears swelling in her eyes. "We're closer than ever. Family is everything."


Twitter: @trevorphibbs —

Utah prep players headed out of state

Jay Tufele, USC • Bingham, five-star defensive tackle

Ty Jones, Washington • Provo, four-star receiver

Tayler Katoa, USC • Layton, four-star linebacker

Sione Lund, Stanford • Brighton, four-star athlete

Jordan Lolohea, Washington • East, three-star defensive end

Levani Damuni, Stanford • Ridgeline, three-star linebacker

Cole Clemens, Vanderbilt • Bingham, three-star offensive lineman

Eli Alford, Air Force • Park City, two-star offensive lineman

Nephi Sewell, Nevada • Desert Hills, two-star defensive back

Ethan Schofield, Air Force • Lone Peak, two-star offensive lineman

Sawyer Pierce, Air Force • Olympus, two-star quarterback






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