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Provo • Kaimana "Kai" Nacua didn't have to see the images of blood pouring down his cheek from a gash opened under his left eye, or replays of the sucker punches he threw at the backs of Memphis players' heads.

By the time the BYU defensive back reached the locker room at Marlins Park in Miami after the fight that marred the ending of the Miami Beach Bowl, he knew he had done something horribly wrong and brought embarrassment to himself, his family and the institution he plays for.

"It was the worst feeling ever," Nacua said Monday while publicly discussing his role in the brawl for the first time. The junior from Las Vegas apologized last March during spring camp and said at the time that he had contacted Memphis coach Justin Fuente with an apology to that school and its players, but on Monday, he opened up even more about what his life has been like since the incident in December 2014.

"Immediately, I was accepting [of the punishment]," Nacua said. "I was just humbled. It happened. Everyone saw what happened. There is no trying to fight it, because it was all over TV. I just had to learn from it and try and show the other guys that there is a certain way to react to something."

A more peaceful, respectful and mature way. That's the lesson Nacua said he learned in the eight months following the brawl in which he spent more than 100 hours doing community service.

"It was just disappointing for me to see myself on TV, just representing the university and my family in the wrong way," he said. "I would say it was the day after, really, [was the hardest part of it]. I was apologizing to everybody I could. They know who I am, really, and they were like, 'It is fine. We know who you are.'"

Nacua, a 6-foot-2, 213-pound safety, was suspended in BYU's 33-28 season-opening win over Nebraska and didn't make the trip to Lincoln. He watched the game on television, and was so nervous and excited for his teammates that he stood the entire time.

Shortly after the Hail Mary pass, Nacua realized that his long nightmare was mostly over, while acknowledging that what happened on Dec. 22 will stick with him forever.

"The high point for me was just the day after the Nebraska game, because I knew, boom, it is back to game time. No more helping the offense on scout team. It was time to get back to getting our defense right for Boise State."

And that he did. Nacua made up for the lost time in a big way against the Broncos, tying a school record with three interceptions in the 35-24 win and returning the last one 50 yards for a touchdown. The performance earned him National Defensive Player of the Week honors from at least two organizations that oversee such an award.

"It's great to have Kai Nacua back. He changed the game. The range that he covers and the plays he made, that's really who he is," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "I'm really excited for him regarding all the scrutiny he's been under. For him to be able to come out and play that way it's fitting to represent who he is and how hard he's worked to be back on our team."

Teammates describe Nacua as one of the more energetic and postive-thinking players on the team, and one who often helps others. That's why the 100 hours of service imposed as part of the discipline wasn't difficult for Nacua, he said.

"It was actually kinda fun," he said. "I like to do that type of staff, so it was good. I just went around the community to find anything to do, really. I had people texting me to help them move, to help anywhere I could."

Sophomore linebacker Fred Warner said other players rallied around Nacua, especially in the days and weeks after the fight. Senior captain Bronson Kaufusi said Nacua handled the ordeal well and is a different person than he was eight months ago.

"I just told him it was going to be all right," Kaufusi said. "We learn a lot through football. We we live and learn. That's how it works. You just have to learn a lot and know that the sun is going to come up the next day. You learn just to keep moving forward."

Twitter: @drewjay —

About Kai Nacua

• Tied a BYU record for single-game interceptions with three in Saturday's 35-24 win over Boise State

• Named National Defensive Player of the Week by College Sports Madness and the Football Writers Association of America

• Junior was suspended in the opener against Nebraska for his role in the fight after the Miami Beach Bowl

• Played quarterback and defensive back at Las Vegas' Liberty High and helped team to 11-2 record his senior year —

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