Allan Hancock's Ray Paulo will play for his 'dream school' BYU next season

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Posted at 8:37 PM, Jun 15, 2023

It’s every junior college kid’s dream to go to a Division I school and end up playing professionally but for most, reality sets in upon arrival.

For American Samoa’s Ray Paulo, he came to Allan Hancock in 2018 to play football and go to his dream school. Four years later, he’s fulfilling that dream.

At 6’3 and 255lbs, the defensive end-turned-tight end turned heads in his final season as a Bulldog, earning him a scholarship to Brigham Young University — a school he’s always had his sights on.

“Around May, I got a lot of phone calls from schools and going to BYU was always the school that I wanted to go to," Paulo explained. "It was my dream school."

His story began four years when he moved from Pago Pago, American Samoa to Santa Maria. After a promising finish to his freshman year, Paulo went into the next off-season with plans to get bigger, faster, and stronger but football would have to wait for two more years.

“I was looking forward to the next season and that's when I decided to go on a mission,” he said.

Doing his two years of mission work in Atlanta, Ga., as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Paulo came back ready to resume his football career in 2021.

“When he left on his mission, he might have been to 210 pounds," Allan Hancock head coach Seth Damron said. "Then he shows back up from his mission and he's 245, and we were like, 'Who in the world who is this guy?' He's going into 2021 and we're expecting him to be a Division I defensive end.”

But a knee injury during camp would delay football another year forcing Paulo to redshirt in 2021, only delaying the inevitable for him.

"That was kind of a nightmare for me,” he stated honestly.

But, instead of letting frustration consume his outlook, Paulo used his redshirt year to catch up on his academics and even set himself up to be a dangerous two-way player for coach Damron for 2022.

“I got back last year and I wanted to try both ways and so I told him I want to win,” Paulo recalled of his conversation with Coach Damron about playing offense as well.

“He's one of those rare guys that can do both," Damron said. "He's obviously a gifted tight end and he's going to get to play Power 5 football because of it but he probably would be in the same position if he played defense too, honestly.”

Paulo leaves next week for Provo, Utah where — after learning a new language, getting his grades right, fighting through injury and two years away on mission — he gets to become a BYU Cougar.

Nipomo native Jesse Garza also will play Division I football next fall committing to Eastern Illinois University. Garza led the team in tackles this past season with 72 at linebacker.