DE Sam Tai Commits to UCLA

Sam Tai

Henderson (Nev.) Liberty defensive end Sam Tai picked UCLA over Arkansas today at a press conference at his school...

Henderson (Nev.) Liberty defensive end Sam Tai, one of the top prospects in Nevada, committed to UCLA on Wednesday, choosing the Bruins over Arkansas.

"I called them on Tuesday night and talked to Coach (Norm) Chow and Coach (Rick) Neuheisel and officially committed," said Tai.  "Coach Neuheisel was very excited.  He was very fired up with me becoming a Bruin.  I talked to all the coaches before though."

Tai said the academics, and the proximity to home, played a key role in his decision.

"The UCLA degree speaks for itself and I was raised by mom to understand that football doesn't last forever," said Tai.  "At UCLA, I'll get a great education.  Another small factor was the distance.  My mom is a flight attendant, so she could have flown her and my dad down to Arkansas, but UCLA was only four hours driving and that was huge."

Tai will be graduating in December and enrolling at UCLA in January.

"I would move out there on January 4th," said Tai.  "I've been talking to my counselor and everything is good there."

Tai called the Arkansas coaches this morning to let them know of his decision.

"I told them this morning and talked to Coach Smith," said Tai.  "It was hard because I developed a relationship with them and it's still a good relationship.  It was tough to make this decision."

But Tai said he was relieved to get his announcement out of the way.

"It definitely is a big weight off," said Tai.  "I felt a lot of relief and now I can focus more on my studies and focus on my team in the playoffs."

Tai is looking forward to the future of the Pac-12.

"I'm very excited about the, especially with the addition of Utah and Colorado," said Tai.  "I have family in both places so seeing my family everywhere will be great.  And playing against USC and Oregon will be great too." 

The 6-4, 240-pounder had long held UCLA in high esteem, but he didn't get an offer from them until late last month, despite camping at UCLA in the summer.  Thats the position they're recruiting me for.

Arkansas was in the drivers seat, his father having played for Bobby Petrino when he was an assistant at Weber State, and Tai camped their this summer as well.

He visited Arkansas officially right after getting a UCLA offer, but the Bruins proximity to home and academics won out.

In Tai, the Bruins are getting a three-star prospect, who ranks #4 in the state overall. The last time UCLA got a prospect from Vegas, he too was a defensive end, Keenan Graham.

"I didn't know Keenan but my coach and his coach are really good friends and he talked with me a lot about them," said Tai.

Tai becomes the second defensive commit for UCLA, joining Aaron Wallace, who committed to play linebacker to the Bruins in July.

He will graduate early and enroll in January, in time for spring ball. Tai is LDS, but it is uncertain when, or if, he'll serve his mission. 

"I'll do a year first then decide on the mission," said Tai.

Tai has six sacks this season, and has also played some quarterback for Liberty, who is in the second round of playoffs this weekend.

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