February 1, 2012

Exclusive: 'Tui' makes it official, it's Army

Ammon Tuimaunei made it official when the 6-foot-2, 280 pounder committed to play for the Army Black Knights on Sunday evening.

Tuimaunei, who is commonly called Tui by family and friends, will now bring his talents across country from the state of Oregon to New York where West Point where he will call home the next five years.

Although the big offensive lineman endured 14 hours of plane travel, as he traveled from Oregon to New York and back again .... he was able to express his enthusiasm and excitement around becoming an Army Black Knight.

"I just told coach (Ian Shields) today that I am committing to Army," shares Tuimaunei, when referring to the Black Knights' offensive coordinator who has been handling the lineman's recruiting.

"Coach Shields called me about an hour ago and asked about my trip home, as well as my thoughts about my visit. At that point, I told him that I wanted to be a Black Knight and he was very excited and relieved."

So what was the determining factor and/or moment that lead Tuimaunei to say yes to Army? I would say that 50% of it was me talking to the players and my host, that was a big part of it," he adds. "I would say the other 50% would be the lifestyle that they've committed to that kind of matches my personality."

"Saturday I called my parents, because they couldn't make the trip and I told them everything about what I was experiencing. On the flight back home I had a lot of time to think and I tried to see if I could switch my mind up, but I was pretty secure at that point ... and I knew it was West Point for me and playing for Army."

Upon his arrival during the 27th weekend, he settled in and connected with his player-host Larry Dixon and according to Tuimaunei, things just fit into place perfectly. "We had a good time right from the beginning," shares Tuimaunei. "He told me that not everyone is cut out for West Point, you have to want to be here. I asked him questions about how he liked it and to determine if that environment would fit me. Larry basically explained everything well and it worked out perfectly."

As his visit continued on Saturday, it proved to be the icing on the cake for the talented lineman, especially the Army staff hanging in with Tui, despite his season ending injury. "We toured the campus, got all the info we needed, saw all the building and history ... which was pretty cool," he declared. "After lunch, we talked about the day to day as a cadet, your classes. The prep school was the bigger deal for me because that's where I will be going before I actually go into West Point."

Most of the schools that were talking to me early dropped out after I got hurt or they got fired," says Tuimaunei, when discussing the recruiting circumstances surrounding his broken foot that occurred five weeks into his senior season. I've been walking for about three weeks now and will be running very soon.

Prior to his injury, he was hearing from Utah, Arizona State and Fresno State.

Actually on Friday, Tuimaunei had a chance to meet with one of Army's trainers and according to the offensive lineman, they were please with how his injury was healing. "I think it says a lot by the Army coaching staff who stuck with me when others dropped out," says Tui.

Tuimaunei also indicated that the teammate bonding process started even before he hit the campus. "I also connected with Josh Jenkins .... he and his mom were in the same airport terminal when I arrived on Friday," says the newest member of the 2012 Army recruiting class.

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