SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – After a very productive four-year career at Stanford, where he was named a team captain, Utes linebacker Levani Damuni wanted to come back to his home state.

“There were a lot of moving parts in my decision,” Damuni said. “But at the end of the day, I just wanted to go to a great school that had a great tradition of defense and I could fit well into the scheme. All that matched up with Utah.”

Damuni rose to stardom as a linebacker and running back at Ridgeline High in Cache County, and left home for Stanford, where he led the team in tackles as a junior, and was voted as an honorable mention All-Pac-12 player in 2022.

Now playing alongside a couple of other local high school stars in Lander Barton and Karene Reid, Damuni has fit right in with the Utes defense.

“He’s brought a lot of physicality and size to our group,” said Reid. “Even his leadership, you know he was a captain at Stanford. He’s brought what he’s learned how to lead people, and it’s fit perfectly with our group.”

“Just this work ethic for one,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “He’s sets the bar with what he does and how he carries himself. His film study, just how he goes about his business is a great example to the younger guys.”

Damuni is one of seven kids, and back when times were tough, his mother Val actually sold her wedding ring to pay for Levani and his siblings to play football at the local Boys and Girls Club.

“Money was tight, and my mom did that for us kids,” Damuni said. “She knows that we love the game, and sacrificing something that means a lot to her to help her kids out is something I’ll always remember. I definitely have my “whys” and why I play, and she’s definitely one of them.”

Val Damuni was obviously thrilled to learn he was coming home to finish his college career.

“She was actually visiting me in the Bay when I told her,” Damuni said. “I was on the phone with Coach [Morgan] Scalley, and she was super happy. “When I was at Stanford, every game was an away game for them. So, them just being right up the road in Cache Valley and being a lot closer, it means a lot. I’m excited for my family to attend every game.”