Patterson has tried not to draw attention to TCU's background checks. "Some schools will use that against us in recruiting. I'm sure of it," he says. "But we think it is the best thing for the school because it puts your mind at rest. It lets you know that there is nothing out there about a kid that you could have found out that you didn't because you didn't look."
Patterson says he reviews recruits on a case-by-case basis along with a school committee that vets all prospective athletes. If a recruit comes along who they feel can overcome his criminal past and represent TCU properly, the university—and Patterson—will take the risk.
Says Patterson, "Every kid deserves a chance."
Does that include Viliseni Fauonuku?
Sitting in the living room of their West Jordan home in December, Fauonuku and his mother, Regena Newton, spoke passionately about why the events of that one evening last March should not prevent him from playing college football. Fauonuku's recollection of what happened that night differs somewhat from the statements of the victims, and even from the account attributed to him in the police report.
"When we first went in there, they all started smoking weed and I'm just sitting in the chair," Fauonuku says. "And then we were drinking and stuff... . And I'm just by myself. And so then they all started getting loud and then [my cousin Langi] has the weed in his hand. And he just stands up, like, 'We're leaving and we're taking this.' [They said], 'No, you owe us money for that.'
"[Langi] is like, 'You gotta do somethin' about this. We gotta get outta here.' ... So I stood up [and showed the gun]. I think that was probably one of the scariest things in my life. I couldn't keep my legs. I was shaking."
Asked why he took the young men's wallets if he was only using the gun to hasten his cousin's exit with the marijuana, Fauonuku says, "After that, like, I guess I just didn't really care. I was just, like, all right, if we're gonna take the weed, then we're gonna take everything." (Langi, who served 120 days in jail for the crime, could not be reached for comment.)
The gun that Fauonuku took into the garage was not a 9-mm, he says, but a pellet gun made to look like a real gun. Police never recovered the weapon, and Newton says that she likely threw it out after the incident.
"Yes, my son made a mistake. [But] when you look at the whole picture, not just the charge, he hasn't been a kid in trouble," Newton says. "I am proud of him for the way he stood up and took responsibility for what he did. He didn't try to run from it. He didn't try to lie about it. He was forthright and honest when he was asked about it. He realized right after he did it that he did something wrong."