Brandon Judd, Deseret News
BYU defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga poses for a picture on the team’s photo day.
PROVO — A lot of us have been there. You jump on the scale, expecting to weigh a certain amount, but become incredulous as to how much weight you’ve actually gained after a period of time.
Turns out BYU freshman defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga has been there also. Upon returning home from his two-year LDS mission service to Kansas, he noted a much higher number than the 240 pounds he weighed in high school.
“I didn’t really feel like I was that much bigger than when I played in high school, so yeah, it was really surprising,” Tonga, who now weighs 340, said with a laugh. “I don’t feel like it, but there’s plays where I’m tired. But it’s just fun. I don’t feel different. I know I look different, but I really don’t notice it.”
Others have noticed it, however, from his coaches and teammates to the Portland State linemen he went up against during last Saturday’s 20-6 win. What they’ve noticed is an imposing defensive tackle who carries his weight extremely well for someone just four and a half years removed from his mission service.
Coaches have praised Tonga’s progress since he started practicing in fall camp, even stating that he was further along physically than any defensive tackle currently rostered.
He arrived at BYU after signing with Utah. The Granger High product was recruited heavily by BYU coaches Kalani Sitake and Ilaisa Tuiaki, both of whom were coaching at Utah at the time.
When both Sitake and Tuiaki took their respective coaching positions at BYU, Tonga decided to follow them both, in large part due to the connections he’d already developed.
“It felt right, after praying about it and talking about it with my family,” Tonga said. “Coach Ilaisa and Coach Kalani — they’ve played a huge role in my life growing up in high school. So it just felt right being here and I definitely made the right decision…It’s better than I thought it would be. I’m enjoying it and the people I’m around — my teammates and coaches — it’s just one big happy family.”
Although Tonga played well initially, he’s still…