Kevin Sumlin is searching for the best talent he can find for Arizona’s 2019 recruiting class. That means looking outside of the United States for diamond-in-the-rough players to bring to Tucson.
Sumlin and the UA offered a scholarship to 2019 edge rusher Sylvain Yondjouen from Brussels in August. The 6-foot-4-inch, 232-pound defensive end visited Arizona for the USC game in September. He also holds offers from Colorado, Cincinnati, Temple, Massachusetts, Rice, Old Dominion and Virginia.
247sports.com lists Yondjouen as a three-star recruit and the best prospect in Belgium.
The Star reached out to the Belgian edge rusher about his recruitment and football in Europe. His responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
What do you like about Arizona?
A: “I like the team, the coaches, the teammates I met. I met a lot of very nice people there. I also like the campus and the weather is also really nice.”
How did Arizona find you and who started recruiting you?
A: “I actually sent my films to someone my mom knows. She spent a year in Farmington, New Mexico, and her host family lives now in Tucson. Their son is a friend of the golf coach (Jim Anderson) of the university and he talked to the golf coach who sent them to the recruiting team of UA.”
What is football like in Belgium and how did you discover the game? What made you want to play football?
A: “American football is a minor sport in Belgium and I was a bit tired of soccer. I played soccer from 6 to 16 years old, and I had a friend who was playing football. He invited me to a training and I liked that. So I started playing football.”
How much has football grown in Europe in terms of popularity?
A: “To be honest, football is not growing much in Belgium. We have more and more kids who want to play but it’s really difficult to find enough good coaches. I had the chance to be in a club that has good coaches.”
Do you watch the NFL or college football? If so, who are your favorite teams?
A:“Because of the time difference, it’s difficult to follow the games. And streaming is not always very good but I sometimes watch a game. I don’t really have favorite teams.”
What is your natural position and what position will you play at Arizona if you commit?
A: “My natural position is defensive end, but I’ll probably play as an outside linebacker or as a defensive end at Arizona.”
Were you familiar with Arizona before visiting Tucson?
A: “Not really. I know the Grand Canyon is in Arizona and I know it’s really hot in Arizona but not much more.”
What did you like about the facilities and campus when you were here for a visit?
A: “Facilities are great. I can’t wait to see the new indoor practice building. The campus is also really nice, we did a tour of it and I like it a lot.”
What is your personal background?
A: “I am Belgian, I’ve always lived in Belgium. My mom is from Belgium and my dad comes from Cameroon. I go to Cameroon about every five, six years. We live outside Brussels and we speak French and Dutch. In Belgium, there are three languages. My parents speak French but we live in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium — Flanders is the name of that part of Belgium — and so I went to school in Dutch and spoke French at home. I have an older sister, who is married and has a little daughter, and two little brothers. Bastien is 18 years old and plays soccer, and Luka is 10 years old and is in a track club.”
Before he left the UA basketball team, did you communicate with fellow Belgian Omar Thielemans?
A: “I saw him during the game just for a few minutes. I didn’t know him from Belgium. It was really nice to talk French in Tucson.”
What will the Arizona Wildcats get out of you as a player?
A: “They’ll get the best of me. No, but seriously, I am a team player. It is very important for me to feel myself in a family with my teammates and my coaches. If I feel like that, I’ll be a leader, a motivator and also a killer on the field. I don’t want to look arrogant but I really love to win.”
What was your first impressions of Kevin Sumlin?
A: “My first impression was he is a man like you and me. So he doesn’t see himself as higher or better than you. And that impressed me a lot. He insisted on talking in private with my parents and me and was there to answer all of our questions. This is a wise man and I really feel comfortable with him. You feel the respect in him and I really have this impression that he will get the best out of me and he is a bit like a host father.”