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“Everyone who knew Gaius is heartbroken today,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He was the kind of young man who lit up a room and his future in football and life had no boundaries. Words cannot express our devastation over the loss of Gaius.”

Vaenuku was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and considered playing at church-owned Brigham Young but he said he felt more at home in Salt Lake City playing for the Utes. His mother, Cela Vaenuku, said the last time she spoke to him was on Sunday _ a brief conversation on how he had spent his day.

“He was a wonderful son,” she said. “He was very social, very outgoing young man and a people person who always made people laugh.”

She said he was the third oldest among seven brothers and sisters, and “they took it very hard” when they heard the news of his death. She said her son had planned to be dormitory roommates with Siaosi Utahafe, the driver.

The news stunned Trinity High in Euless, where Manukainiu, Vaenuku and Siaosi Utahafe all played football. The team has been one of the best in Texas in recent years, with three state titles in a span of five seasons from 2005-09 and a trip to the championship game in 2010.

Principal Mike Harris said the deaths have affected a majority of the Euless community, where there is a tight-knit Polynesian community.

“They were students with bright smiles that everybody knew and everybody loved,” the principal said.

Texas A&M associate athletic director Alan Cannon said Manukainiu was known for his sense of humor and “will be sorely missed as a person you enjoyed being around.” He said the football staff was working Tuesday to notify teammates of his death. Players are scheduled to report to campus Sunday to begin practicing for the upcoming season.

Cannon said Manukainiu was to wear jersey No. 90 and that it was too early to determine if players will affix the number to their uniforms as a tribute. The NCAA must approve any such recognition, Cannon said.

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Associated Press writers Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City and David Warren and Uriel Garcia in Dallas contributed to this report.