Butch Pau’u and Jherremya Leuta-Douyere graduated from Servite together in 2012 and then headed to BYU on football scholarships.
After redshirting his first season at BYU, Pau’u spent two years in the Honduras on a Mormon mission, while Leuta-Douyere, a devout Catholic, continued his football career with the Cougars.
When Pau’u returned from his mission, he hardly recognized Leuta-Douyere.
“You just saw a huge progression with him becoming a man,” Pau’u told the Salt Lake Tribune.
Fast forward another three years and Pau’u is set to begin his senior season with the Cougars, while Leuta-Douyere completed his eligibility after the 2015 season. He currently works as a law clerk in Provo.
Just as Leuta-Douyere became a valuable member of the defense during his stay at BYU, Pau’u has done the same, leaving him itching to begin his third straight year as a starting linebacker when the Cougars open their season Sept. 1 at Arizona.
Pau’u should be one of the most talked about linebackers in the country, but he struggled with weight issues last season, which hampered his production. The weight gain stemmed from a knee injury early in his sophomore season that kept him inactive for long stretches.
“I played terribly,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune. “It was a bad year.”
That completely contrasted the start of his sophomore season at BYU.
The highlight came when Pau’u had 19 tackles against UCLA in the third game of the 2016 season, the most by a BYU player in three years. The following week, however, he tore the MCL in his left knee on the first play of the second half against West Virginia.
“That was my first major injury,” he says. “It was like, ‘Wow, this is really happening to me.’ When you’re playing, you feel invincible, and then …”
He tried to play through it, but the pain became too unbearable. He sat out a game, tried to return for another, but it wasn’t until the offseason that the ligament began to heal on its own.
His inactivity during that time caused Pau’u to gain weight, from 220 to about 245 pounds, and that didn’t work well with his 6-foot frame.
“At his height [6-foot], that’s about as much weight as he can possibly pack on,” BYU assistant coach Ed Lamb told the Salt Lake Tribune. “There are not a lot of NFL linebackers that are his height. But of those at his height, that’s about as big as they can get.”
His quickness was affected by the increased weight and that’s one of his best assets on the playing field.
“It wasn’t healthy weight, either,” he said. “I struggled with mobility and everything. Then I had injuries, and struggled even more.”
Pau’u was determined to get back down to his ideal playing weight this past offseason and he hit his mark, reporting to summer camp at 225 pounds.
“He is right where he needs to be,” Lamb said. “Right now, he is really solid. His body fat percentage is really low. He’s done a great job this offseason.”
Pau’u backed Lamb’s assertions.
“Yeah, smiling Butch is back,” he said. “Thank goodness. My parents gave me the longest talk a couple weeks ago about how I just wasn’t happy last year. But we are back. It is good to be back.”