Raider Damuni committed to BYU in eighth grade. Now a junior, Damuni is shutting down receivers at T

Timpview’s Raider Damuni celebrates a touchdown during the 5A football semifinal game against Lehi at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. Timpview won 35-7.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

PROVO — It’s rare for an eighth grader to commit to a school, but Raider Damuni is defying expectations.

The son of former BYU safety and current Cougar community relations coordinator Jack Damuni committed to the Cougars after an unexpected visit with BYU head coach Kalani Sitake.

“It was crazy. I wasn’t expecting anything like that at the time. Coach Kalani pulled me into his office one day and offered me a scholarship. I committed right there, right on the spot,” Damuni said.

BYU has had a big influence for Damuni, who grew up in Hawaii.

“It was always a BYU-centered family, I feel like. I didn’t grow up in Utah, I grew up in Hawaii, but definitely having my dad play at BYU, that was something big in my life,” Damuni said. “Our whole family is BYU fans.”

Growing up with a former college football player as his dad, motivated Damuni in his own football career.

“Knowing that my dad played football and him playing at the Division I level always made me want to play football from a little age. He makes you want to be a better player,” Damuni said.

Damuni says, as of right now, he still plans on signing with BYU.

Damuni has been productive at defensive back for the T-birds this season, snagging six interceptions, but didn’t start out on defense at the beginning of his high school career.

“When I first came here, I was playing wide receiver when I played here as a freshman. My sophomore year, they made my primary position DB so I had to adjust to that. Over time, I feel like I developed in that position and I got better as time went on,” Damuni said.

Over time, Damuni learned the technique and got the hang of it.

“I’m happy I made the switch,” he said.

Timpview head coach Andy Stokes is happy he made the switch to defense, too.

“We like to stack as many of our athletes on that side of the ball and he was the first one we flipped over there when I got here. He’s gotten better from his first game at corner to now. We can put him over there anywhere, against anybody, and we feel safe,” Stokes said.

Timpview wide receiver Raider Damuni (3) reals in a ball while defended by Lone Peak defensive back Justin Ostler (11) during the first half of a high school football game at Lone Peak High School in Highland on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. Colter

Peterson, Deseret News

Nowhere was Damuni’s improvement at defensive back more apparent than Timpview’s dominant semifinal win over Lehi. Damuni had a pick-six and shut down his man.

“Last week, he was a big part of shutting down Lehi’s offense. We put him on their kid and he had a 3-yard catch, a kid that’s averaging 100 yards receiving,” Stokes said.

“That was one of the best feelings I’ve had ever. You’re in the biggest stage to play in high school football and getting that opportunity to get an interception and score felt very good,” Damuni added.

Damuni will get a chance to feel the ultimate feeling, winning a state championship, on Friday.

“I’m super excited. Growing up as a little kid, I grew up in a place where it’s almost impossible that your local high school is going to play in a state championship game, so I always wondered what it was like. I have the opportunity to go this Friday and go play in the state championship game so I want to make the most of it,” Damuni said.

Raider Damuni committed to BYU in eighth grade. Now a junior, Damuni is shutting down receivers at Timpview