By Josh Cann
Mark Atuaia, former BYU player and current BYU’s Running Back Coach was born in Laie, Hawaii and grew up in Kahuku. He’s an Eagle Scout, LDS, and served his mission in Tucson, Arizona. Out of Kahuku High School high school, he was recruited by Arizona, Colorado, Washington, where he ultimately chose to play for BYU.
This season, the running backs for BYU have been riddled with unusual circumstances, Jamaal Williams out for the season for an honor code violation, injuries to Taysom Hill who’s a big part of the run game, Algernon Brown, Adam Hine, and even Riley Burt who Coach Atuaia really likes.
“I’m big on Burt. Against Cincinnati we set him up to do big things, I told him before that game that it’s his time. After his 41 yard run where he got injured, he came back to the sidelines and felt bad he got injured, almost that he had let me down.” Atuaia said.
Atuaia played RB for BYU between 1991-1996, taking a two year hiatus in ’92 and ’93 to serve an LDS Mission. He was apart of the special 1996 season where BYU finished 14-1 after a win in the Cotton Bowl against Kansas St, and finished ranked 5th in the nation. He started 13 games that season. He finished his BYU career averaging 4.1 yards per carry.
Coach Atuaia plays a role in recruiting as well, particularly the running backs, as that’s his specialty. When I talked to him at the Bingham-Brighton game in late October, he shed some light on the local hotbeds for recruiting.
“We need to take both the starters on offense , and the starters on defense, (of Bingham and Brighton) and bring them all to Provo, that’s what we’re trying to do.” Atuaia said.
BYU currently has multiple commits and prospects on both Bingham and Brighton. Keaton Torre and Drew Jensen being the commits for 2016, with 3-star Jackson Kaufusi being a 2016 prospect, and 4-star DT Jay Tufele and 4-star RB Sione Heimuli-Lund being the 2017 prospects, respectively.
Atuaia is a big believer in discipline and being physically prepared to have success on the field. When asked about the Director of Football Performance Frank Wintrich, he said:
“Wintrich has had a big impact on this team, the way he does things is great, I’ve definitely seen an impact.” Atuaia said.
BYU’s future at the running back position looks very bright with the return of Jamaal Williams in 2016, Algie Brown, Francis Bernard, Riley Burt, and Toloa’i Ho Ching. Plus the additions of highly touted newcomers in Squally Canada, (transfer from Washington State currently on the Scout team) and Charles West, among others, it looks to be one of the deepest positions on the team going into the 2016 season, and could end up being one of the greatest stable of running backs in BYU history.
When asked about all the running backs returning and being added to the team, Autaia laughed and admitted that with all the running backs joining the fold, they’re going to make him look good as the RB coach next year and in the years to come.
Not enough can be said about Coach Mark Atuaia’s eccentric personality, and fun-loving nature. As I talked to him, his presentable and friendly demeanor were up there with anyone I’ve ever met. Whether he’s laughing, joking or coaching football, he seems to live life with a great attitude and a charismatic personality that’s near impossible not to be drawn to him. That’s what he’s all about, and BYU is extremely fortunate to have his expertise in the backfield.