Provo • Senior linebacker Uona Kaveinga said he wanted to get himself in a different environment, and surround himself with people with similar values and life goals when he announced almost three years ago that he was transferring from USC to BYU.
The fact that he's been able to start for two years on a defense that's arguably better than the one he left at USC has just been a bonus, the native of Hawthorne, Calif., said Wednesday as he contemplated the end of his college football career.
"The path here to BYU has been rocky and rough, but all that matters is I am here and I have enjoyed it," Kaveinga said. "I love it. I'm totally happy with how it all turned out."
Kaveinga was one of 23 seniors honored Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium as the Cougars closed out their 2012 home schedule with a 52-13 win over Idaho. He will play his second-to-last regular-season game in his home state of California this Saturday as 6-4 BYU travels to San Jose State to take on the 8-2 Spartans (8:30 p.m., ESPN2).
Nearing the end "is an emotional subject," Kaveinga said. "But I am grateful to be here at BYU. It has been a great experience. I have made some really good friends and overall, it has been a great program to play for."
Kaveinga had to sit out the 2010 season, per NCAA transfer rules, after leaving the glitz and glamour of USC, but coach Bronco Mendenhall often marveled that year over his talent and football instincts as he toiled on the scout team. Now that he's played nearly two seasons, he hasn't disappointed.
"Yeah, he's been everything I thought he would be," Mendenhall said. "He's been a great leader, a great inside linebacker for us, and one of the key reasons we've played good defense the last two years."
One of the leaders of a defense that is vying to be called the best in school history, Kaveinga has recorded 38 tackles. He has intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble, and contributed on a sack.
"He is a different character. I mean that because he is fearless," said fellow linebacker Kyle Van Noy. "He will hit anything. He will run through a brick wall if you tell him to. Playing with guys like that, you like it. They are not afraid to go up against anyone. They have confidence. You like people like that."
Of course, Kaveinga originally committed to BYU, but changed his mind near signing day and went with the Trojans, having been star-struck by mingling with the likes of coach Pete Carroll and countless NFL stars who played for USC and helped Carroll in Kaveinga's recruitment. He said earlier this season that he wishes he had stuck with his original commitment.
His favorite memory?
That would be the BYU defense's goal-line stand against Boise State, even though the Broncos emerged with a 7-6 win.
"Not letting them get into the end zone not even giving up one point to their offense. That is probably going to stand out," Kaveinga said.
After the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20, Kaveinga said he will start thinking about a professional football career, although at 5-foot-11 he probably doesn't have the height that NFL scouts like.
"I am going to give it my best shot and see what happens," he said.
BYU's defensive leaders
Player Tack. Sacks Ints. Fumb/forced
B. Ogletree 78 0 0 0
Uona Kaveinga 38 1 1 0
Daniel Sorensen 54 0 2 2
Preston Hadley 51 1 1 1
Ziggy Ansah 47 4 0 0
Spencer Hadley 43 3 0 1