The week after he signed an official letter of intent with the University of Virginia, defensive lineman prospect Nusi Malani learned that primary recruiter, would-be position coach, and friend Vic So’oto was leaving his post as UVA defensive line coach to accept the same role at USC.
Led by head coach Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia’s staff was quick to address the news with the Junipero Serra (San Mateo, CA) senior, who signed with the Hoos on February 5.
“When they called I was just in shock because Coach So’oto was my boy. We kind of connected,” Malani said. “My relationship with Coach So’oto, we’re like really good friends. We have that [Polynesian] connection. When he left, I was shocked. Coach Mendenhall and Coach Anae and Coach Atuaia all called and were checking up on me. They said, ‘We’re good. We will get you a replacement.’”
Despite the departure of So’oto, who was instrumental in recruiting the consensus 3-star prospect and Mercury News Bay Area Preps Defensive Player of the Year, asking out of the letter of intent was never considered. If anything, the way Mendenhall and company handled the news strengthened Malani’s bond with the coaches.
“I was still UVA all the way,” Malani said. “Even though [So’oto] left, I still like everything about the school and the culture. One person...
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