Monday, Jan. 30, 2012 | 8:09 p.m.
Jared Tuilagi already has this college football game circled on his calendar.
Tuilagi, an outside linebacker from Liberty High, verbally committed Monday to the University of North Dakota following a weekend visit. One glance at North Dakota’s schedule and Tuilagi can easily spot the game he’s looking forward to playing in the next four years — against Southern Utah.
Liberty lineman P.J. Taeao, who is Tuilagi’s cousin, committed Sunday to Southern Utah, which, like North Dakota, is a Football Championship Subdivision school in the Great West Conference.
“North Dakota didn’t offer P.J. and Southern Utah didn’t offer me,” said the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Tuilagi. “Southern Utah turned out being a perfect fit for P.J. and vice versa with me at North Dakota.”
Tuilagi said his recruiting trip to the Grand Forks, N.D., school couldn’t have gone any better. He feels its defensive scheme fits his style of play, he bonded with coaches and saw how passionate the program’s fan base is.
“They have great community support for all of their sports, especially football,” said Tuilagi, who finished with 63 tackles in 2011 and was an all-Southeast Division selection. “Everything felt right.”
Tuilagi also had scholarship offers from Dixie State, Texas Southern and San Diego, but partially picked North Dakota because it was the first school to begin recruiting him. “It was a loyalty thing. I bonded with those guys,” he said.
Verbal commitments are nonbinding until an athlete signs a national letter of intent. Signing day is Wednesday.