P.J. Taeao was known as a dominant offensive lineman at Liberty High School.
But the hulking senior guard always brought a defensive mindset to the field.
“Off the field, I’m one of the nicest guys you’ll meet,” Taeao said. “But if you have a different-colored jersey on, I’m coming after you.”
It’s an attitude the 6-foot-2-inch, 300-pound senior will get to carry into college.
Taeao made an oral commitment to play defensive tackle at Southern Utah on Sunday after his official visit to the Cedar City, Utah, campus.
Taeao also had scholarship offers from Duquesne and Texas Southern, among others.
“Everything was nice. It’s a family-oriented program,” Taeao said of Southern Utah.
Taeao was a first-team all-state offensive lineman as a senior, paving the way for Liberty (11-2) to win its second consecutive Sunrise Region title and reach the Class 4A state semifinals.
Taeao also made 2½ sacks as a senior, and he told Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb he preferred to play on the defensive line.
“I’ve always wanted to play defense,” Taeao said.
Taeao took an unofficial trip to the University of San Diego during the season and made an official visit last week to Division II Incarnate Word (Texas), but said the chance to play at a quality Football Championship Subdivision program on scholarship while close to home was too much to pass up.
Southern Utah went 6-5 last season, including a 41-16 romp over UNLV at Sam Boyd Stadium on Sept. 24.
“It’s a bonus it’s close to home, and my parents can watch me play,” Taeao said. “The coaches were great. They made me feel comfortable.”
Also over the weekend, Liberty senior outside linebacker Jared Tuilagi completed his official visit to North Dakota.
Tuilagi said in a text message that he enjoyed his trip, but he is yet to make any commitment.