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A 6’7, 425-pound lineman's crazy road from a Tongan pig farm to BYU

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You'll have a hard time finding a more fascinating route to college football.

After BYU signed Motekiai Langi in its 2015 football recruiting class, the Tongan offensive lineman became a sort of social media celebrity.

There was that video of him running a 40-yard dash in full Mormon missionary attire, and there was this picture of Langi making a 6’7, 265-pound BYU linebacker look completely unimposing by comparison:

We’re now learning a lot more about BYU’s most interesting freshman, courtesy of an excellent Sports Illustrated feature by Joan Niesen that details how Langi found his way from a Tongan pig farm three years ago to a major (maybe Big 12??) college football program’s offensive line. It’s pretty fascinating.

Langi's road to BYU was about as winding as it gets.

A distilled version of his travels, from Niesen’s telling, goes something like this:

A 17-year-old Langi was working on a pig farm on Tongatapu, the largest of the 169 Tongan islands, back in 2013. A high school coach from Arizona visited to run a football camp, and upon seeing this 400-pound 17-year-old kid, decided to email Steve Kaufusi, an acquaintance on BYU’s coaching staff.

Kaufusi visited Langi in Tonga after the 2013 season, and Langi didn’t think much of it. In January 2015, Langi was heading to Provo to train for his Mormon mission, and he stopped into BYU’s football offices. The Cougars offered him a scholarship, and he accepted it, and now he’s on a two-year mission. So, he’ll be done in January 2017, and the plan is he’ll join the team the following summer and play in the 2017 season.

He’s currently doing his missionary work in Arizona.

Other fun tidbits about Langi include:

  • While on his mission in Cottonwood, Ariz., he broke five bikes "with his girth" and was compelled to trim his weight to 419 pounds.
  • Previously, he’d gotten up to 460 pounds.
  • He’s still spent less than one week of his life in Provo.
  • He signed as an "OL/DL," back when Bronco Mendenhall was the Cougars’ head coach. The new coach is Kalani Sitake, who says Langi’s mission is a serious obstacle: "Nothing disrupts training like your mission," he tells Niesen, having done one himself. "I've heard people say it's a huge advantage. It's not. If it was, everybody would be doing it."

Langi looks like a fairly easy man for whom to cheer. With 6’7, 400-pound Baylor tight end LaQuan McGowan having moved on (maybe toward a wrestling career), he’s got a good chance to take up the mantle as college football’s coolest huge person.

Hey, get him some touches, and watch Langi run toward a Piesman Trophy.