CU football: Pookie Maka to put mission on hold, play for Buffs this fall

In recent months, Pookie Maka has had to wrestle with two major life choices.

An outstanding linebacker from Cottonwood High School in Salt Lake City, Maka settled one of those when he signed a letter of intent two weeks ago to play football at Colorado.

He has come to a conclusion on the other big choice, too.

Maka told that he will play this next season at Colorado before leaving next winter to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said about his plan for the next few years of his life.

For Maka, it’s the conclusion of what had been a difficult choice for him, as he wasn’t sure he even wanted to serve a mission.

“I wasn’t as open to a mission as I am now,” he said. “At first I wasn’t really even thinking of serving a mission at all, but I did a little self-pondering about that decision and finally decided that I should.”

LDS men are eligible to serve missions at 18 years old, and Maka, who turns 18 on Tuesday, could have left this coming summer and returned in the summer of 2018. He felt that doing that, however, would have forced him to cut his mission three or four months short in order to give him time to properly train for the 2018 season.

By attending CU for one semester, leaving next winter and returning in the winter of 2019, he will have a full offseason to prepare for the 2019 season.

Maka said he has already talked to CU head coach Mike MacIntyre and defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt about his plans and, “They said they will support me either way.”

That support, and the relationship he built with Leavitt, is a big reason why he chose CU over several schools, including BYU and Utah.

“(Leavitt) is not only a great coach, but a great guy,” Maka said. “He became a great friend of mine the first second I met him.”

Because of that, Maka is looking forward to playing for Leavitt this fall. And, while his initial time in Boulder will be short, Maka said he hopes to make the most of it by doing everything in his power to help the Buffaloes win.

“I want to come down and compete,” Maka said. “I’m not just going to come down and let the guys ahead of me relax in the position that they are in. I’m going to come in and do my best to take out every guy that’s in front of me and make my mark and make every guy have to compete to take me out.”

At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Maka is light for an outside linebacker and said CU coaches would like him to eventually get to 240-245. He may not get there by this fall, but still aims to make an immediate impact.

“If I’m not able to get (to 240-245), the main focus is to get stronger and faster,” he said. “I can gain weight over time.”


Maka had eight sacks, four forced fumbles and blocked two field goals at Cottonwood this past season. … Pookie is a nickname; his given first name is Tangilanu. … According to, Maka had about a dozen other scholarship offers, including from Pac-12 schools Arizona State, Oregon State, Utah, Washington and Washington State. … Cottonwood teammate Fua Pututau, who is also Maka’s cousin, considered CU, as well, before signing with Utah.

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.