Tony Tuioti has been coaching football for 20 seasons, and the Nebraska defensive line coach experienced a first in his career Wednesday afternoon.
He attended a football National Letter of Intent signing ceremony.
The NCAA forbids college coaches from being at such events, but since his son, Teivis Tuioti, was on the stage at the Lincoln Southeast Auditorium as one of the four Knights finalizing their Division I college plans, an exception was made.
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That gave him access to see safety Isaac Gifford and offensive lineman Xavier Trevino solidify their commitments to Nebraska. Gifford, who graduates from high school this week and will start school at NU next month, has a “blueshirt” arrangement in which he’ll be a walk-on this spring but on scholarship starting in the fall. Trevino is walking on.
Also signing was standout wide receiver and defensive back Isaac Appleget, who is headed to South Dakota State.
“I was there when my daughter signed in volleyball with BYU-Hawaii coming out of high school, but this is my first football one,” said coach Tuioti, whose daughter Teisa Tuioti played at Midland this past fall.
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Teivis Tuioti signed with Nevada, the school he committed to earlier this month, choosing the Wolfpack over offers from Idaho State and Army. And for just a few minutes Wednesday afternoon, coach Tuioti shed the Nebraska red and wore a Nevada shirt along with his wife, Keala.
“We now have two favorite college teams,” the coach said.
Conflicts with Nebraska football will likely keep the coach from seeing any of his son’s games in person, “but his mom will be there,” said Tuioti, who just finished his first season with the Huskers. “It will be an easy pick for which game she’ll be going to on Saturdays.”
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Tony Tuioti has coached his son ever since he started playing football, and he says it will be an adjustment for him having Teivis 1,400 miles away. Teivis spent his freshman year of high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his father was the director of player personnel for the Wolverines. He was then in Berkeley, California, as a sophomore and junior when his father was on staff at Cal before playing his senior year at Southeast.
“Since he was a freshman, we’ve talked about how cool it would be to be in the same room and be able to coach him in college,” Tony Tuioti said. “Just because he’s at another school doesn’t mean I can’t help him out with whatever he needs.
“We always felt it was important for him to find himself, blaze his own path and be able to grow and expand as a young man on his own,” he added. “That’s more important than anything else, and that’s why we’re excited for today.”
The official visit to Nevada, which is coached by former Husker assistant Jay Norvell, sealed the decision for Teivis to break away from home and try something new.
“That really helped me decide what to do,” Teivis said. “It would’ve been a special opportunity to be coached by my dad, but I also wanted the chance to meet new people and work with this new team in Reno. I knew coming here (to Southeast) that I’d be here for about a year and then head out for my next journey.”
Teivis helped Southeast go 9-2 this past season and reach the quarterfinals of the Class A playoffs. The elder Tuioti said it was only fitting that his son sign his college letter with three of his high school teammates whom he grew close to in a short amount of time.
“Teivis loves his team and coaching staff, and they all did a great job of accepting him and making him feel like family,” coach Tuoti said. “He’s learned a lot practicing against Trevino and with Isaac, so that’s been cool.”
Gifford’s signing culminated a week in which he had no idea where he stood with Nebraska until Saturday when the blueshirt offer was extended, giving him an opportunity to follow in his older brother Luke’s footsteps as a Blackshirt.