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high school recruiting:

Nacua brothers fulfill deceased father’s wishes by committing to BYU football


Sam Morris

Liberty quarterback Kai Nacua takes off on a keeper against Del Sol during their game Saturday, October 2, 2011. Liberty won 34-0.

Updated Tuesday, June 26, 2012 | 9:35 p.m.

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When Lionel Nacua returned home to Henderson after taking sons Kai and Isaiah to BYU on a football recruiting trip two months ago, he couldn’t hide his passion for the school.

“Honey, this is where I want the boys to go to school,” Penina Nacua remembered her husband saying. “For my husband, BYU would be a dream opportunity for the boys.”

The dream is now a reality, which unfortunately for the Nacua family, is bittersweet. Lionel Nacua, you see, died unexpectedly May 14. He was just 45.

The brothers — Kai, a rising senior at Liberty High, and Isaiah, a rising junior at Bishop Gorman High — verbally committed together when offered a scholarship Tuesday during the BYU camp.

They didn’t hesitate committing, knowing that was their father’s wishes and excited to be reunited on the gridiron.

“My husband would be so happy right now. We all are,” Penina Nacua said. “It’s been such a wonderful day.”

Just 14 months apart, they shined together on the youth football ranks with Lionel helping coach the team and Penina as the team mother. Both boys were without their cellphones at the camp.

“For us, it’s always been family first, church, school and then sports,” said Penina, who on more than one occasion has held one of her sons from practice in favor of schoolwork. “I have no problem with a coach having a long practice, but he better have an equally long study period. Both my husband and I never went to college and that is something we want for all our kids (they have seven). You can’t get to college unless you have the grades.”

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Kai Nacua plays quarterback at Liberty, but was recruited as a linebacker by BYU. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Isaiah was a regular on state champion Gorman’s defensive line last fall as a sophomore.

Isaiah, even when the boys played on the same pee-wee football team, was always bigger and considered the older sibling. At the BYU camp, the Cougar coaches thought Isaiah was older, partially because of his full facial hair, Penina said.

Kai Nacua completed 51 percent of his passes last fall for 1,480 yards and 12 touchdowns, also rushing for 6.8 yards per carry and five scores. He was a part-time safety and should have no problem moving to the defensive side of the ball at the next level, Liberty coach Rich Muraco said.

“They loved (Kai) because of how athletic he was and his frame,” Muraco said. “They see potential to put some weight on.”

Last summer, Centennial 2012 defensive lineman Trajan Pili verbally committed to BYU. Other 2012 commitments include: Liberty running back Niko Kapeli (UNLV), Gorman quarterback Anu Solomon (Arizona) and Foothill wide receiver Tyler Morris (San Diego State).

Verbal commitments are nonbinding and don't become official to national signing day in February 2013.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at

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