Cottonwood (Salt Lake City, Utah) linebacker Howard Pututau has always been a bit of a trailblazer. The 6-foot-3 inch, 230 pound prospect started a new journey on Monday night by committing play football for Utah.
For Pututau, the decision to commit to Utah came down to a perfect mix of educational opportunities and proximity to home.
"I'm the oldest in my family of eight and just being the first one to be able to go to college and further my education in a school that is just down the street. That was a big part of my decision to commit. Just being down the street from where we live. Growing up coming to the games and stuff, and having family and friends playing there telling me their experiences made it easier. It just really influenced my decision," Pututau explained.
During his recruitment, Pututau developed especially strong relationships with Utah coaches Jay Hill, Kalani Sitake and Ilaisa Tuiaki.
"I talked to those three a lot," said Pututau. "Coach Hill, he's really cool. He'd come over to the school and talk to me about how school and ball was going. He was always supportive and motivating. Coach Kalani, he'd come a few times to the school and call me sometimes and check up on me. He's Tongan like I am and can relate to how my lifestyle is. It's the same with Coach Tuiaki."
Although Pututau spent most of his time at Cottonwood playing linebacker, he's bring brought in to play a hybrid linebacker/defensive end position for the Utes. "We talked about it. [Coach Sitake] was saying I'll either play outside linebacker or defensive end," he said. "I've played defensive end before, and I'll need to gain more weight and work on my speed. I think Coach Tuiaki can help me with that. He's helped Nate Orchard gain weight and helped [the Utah defensive line] reach their potential. Hopefully he can help me with that."
Pututau also holds scholarship offers from Utah State, Hawaii, and Idaho, and was receiving interest from coaches at Stanford and Washington State before his commitment to Utah. He plans on taking his official visit to the school in January. According to Pututau, he doesn't plan to change his mind.
"I've been thinking about it a lot, making that decision [to commit]. I feel like I've made the right choice. I feel like Utah can help me with my academics and also help me in my athletic career. It's just for me," he said. "It's the right thing to do. It's where I'm supposed to be."
Pututau plans on serving an LDS mission prior to enrolling at Utah. "Utah said they will hold my scholarship for two years while I go on my mission. That was another big reason I committed," he explained.