PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Neil Pau’u is just happy to be playing football again.
“I’m just excited just to be back,” said the BYU wide receiver on the first day of spring football practice.
Pau’u was a rising star for the Cougars, but a DUI arrest last June resulted in a year long suspension from the team. But after sitting out the season, Pau’u says he has learned a great deal being away from the game.
“You definitely learn a lot about yourself,” said Pau’u, who has 32 career catches for 355 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons at BYU. “You have the strength of your family, friends. First and foremost, I want to thank everyone along the process from when it happened in June to where I’m at now for sticking with me and telling me to press forward type of deal. So it’s been good and I’m just excited to be back.”
Head coach Kalani Sitake believes Pau’u has learned his lesson and has earned his way back on the team.
“I’m really proud of him,” Sitake said. “He’s done some good things. Obviously there is still some work to go, but I’m really excited that he can get back on the field and play and contribute to this team.”
Pau’u thought about transferring to another school, but his older brother, former Cougar linebacker Butch Pau’u helped convince him to stay.
“It crosses your mind for sure, the thought of leaving,” Pau’u said. “It probably wasn’t as big just because my brother told me to stay. But then Kalani. Kalani is probably the biggest reason why I did end up staying.”
Pau’u is expected to be a big part of the BYU receiving corps this season, and he is on track to graduate in December.
When BYU linebacker Chaz Ah You was arrested for a DUI last month, Pau’u was there to help guide him through a tough time.
“When that all happened, he wasn’t the first person that has hit me up,” Pau’u said. “There are friends from back home friends that I made out here that hit up about their own situations with DUI’s. So it’s been cool to be able to relate, not only the process, but the learning pains that grow with it, and if they’re serious about overcoming that.”