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BYU To NFL: Kalani Sitake Knows His Job Requires Pipeline To Next Level

Jun 22, 2022, 9:19 PM
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BYU head coach Kalani Sitake (Courtesy of BYU Photo)
(Courtesy of BYU Photo)

SALT LAKE CITY – BYU football’s Kalani Sitake believes it’s his job as head coach of the Cougars to send players into the National Football League.

The seventh-year head coach spoke about the NFL’s impact on his program during BYU football’s 2022 Media Day on Wednesday, June 22.

“I said it from the beginning, my job as head coach is to get guys in the NFL,” Sitake told KSLSports.com. “I know some coaches shy away from that. I don’t. That’s my job. And it takes some time, especially when you’re dealing with guys that are going on missions and things like that. But we have a lot of NFL players on our roster right now.”

During BYU’s Media Day, multiple players expressed a desire to play professionally in the NFL following their college days. After putting multiple guys into the league in recent years, BYU could add more talent to the NFL in next year’s draft. Some of the potential players to keep an eye on during BYU’s 2022 campaign include Jaren Hall (Quarterback), Clark Barrington (Offensive Line), Blake Freeland (Offensive Line), Tyler Batty (Defensive End), Christopher Brook (Running Back), Kaleb Hayes (Defensive Back), Malik Moore (Defensive Back), Puka Nacua (Wide Receiver), Keenan Pili (Linebacker), Isaac Rex (Tight End), Ryan Rehkow (Punter), Gunner Romney (Wide Receiver), and Payton Wilgar (Linebacker).

“You know, I hope that we can make things really difficult for myself, which means that in December, we’re questioning whether or not someone’s going to come back for the last year of eligibility,” Sitake continued. “If they’re doing that then we’re in a good spot, we’ve done things well.”

He added that every player in high school has aspirations of playing at the next level following their college careers, including the players on BYU’s roster.

“If you go and pull everybody here, poll all high school players that are playing high school football that want to play college, you ask them, ‘How many of them want to play in the NFL,’, 100 percent. They want to play in the NFL,” Sitake said. “I asked my 123 players, ‘How many want to play in the NFL?’ They all raise their hand. It doesn’t matter if their fifth or sixth string doesn’t matter. They want to play there.”

NFL Players Drafted Under Sitake

Since Sitake took over the Cougars at the end of 2015, BYU has seen nearly a dozen players taken in the NFL Draft and even more signed by teams as undrafted free agents. Six of those players have been selected in the last two drafts, including five in 2021.

Here is the list of players drafted in to the league during Sitake’s tenure as BYU’s head coach:

  • Bronson Kaufusi (2016)
  • Jamaal Williams (2017)
  • Fred Warner (2018)
  • Sione Takitaki (2019)
  • Zach Wilson (2021)
  • Brady Christensen (2021)
  • Khyiris Tonga (2021)
  • Chris Wilcox (2021)
  • Dax Milne (2021)
  • Tyler Allgeier (2022)

Sitake told KSLSports.com that the NFL is a focus for the BYU football program throughout the recruiting process and until the player leaves Provo. BYU’s success in recent drafts, as well as historically, has opened the doors for Sitake and his staff to promote a path to professional players for prospective and current Cougars.

“You can learn from the lessons of people that have worked there and got there that say, ‘Hey, this is how you can get it done,'” the head coach stated. “My job is to make sure that I allow them the opportunity to live their dreams, right? And when it doesn’t work out, then we have a good backup plan. But even if they do get the NFL, it’s going to end. ‘What are you gonna do after that?’ But the info has to be part of the conversation. Otherwise, I’m not doing my job well.”

Sitake’s NFL prospects begin their 2022 season against USF on September 3.

Kyle Ireland is a Locals in the NFL Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Yards After College Podcast. Follow him on Twitter (@kyleireland) and Instagram (@kyleirelandksl).

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