Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Return From Madagascar

After garnering playing time on the defensive line in all 13 games his freshman season in 2006, Romney Fuga traded in his helmet and pads for a missionary nametag. Now back from the African island of Madagascar, Fuga is now tackling the demands of getting himself back into top football form.

It wasn’t very long ago that Romney Fuga was halfway around the world. In fact, Fuga has only been home a short month and a week now, and he’s still getting used to the change from being a successful baptizing missionary to a hard-hitting football player.

“Things went really well for me because the mission I was in [Antananarivo Mission] was a baptizing mission,” said Fuga. “We spoke Malagasy out there. It was a pretty amazing mission. It was tough, exciting and adventurous. It was pretty much all of the above, and all of the experiences I got while serving out there I’m really grateful for.”

While out in the field, Fuga served alongside another BYU Cougar: tight end Devin Mahina, who is from Upland, California and committed to BYU in 2007.

“Elder Mahina is doing good out there,” Fuga said. “We never had the chance to serve together but we did live in the same house together for six months. We got to know each other really well and he’s a good missionary. He’s a better missionary that I was and he’s having a lot of success. He’s a hard-working missionary and is smart and a good missionary overall.”

According to Fuga, Mahina has filled out his 6-foot-6-inch frame a little. Fuga mentioned that the missionaries often ate better than the local people.

“They don’t feed you as much as BYU does obviously,” said Fuga with a laugh. “As a missionary you didn’t starve and I’m just grateful because we ate a lot better than the people there. Elder Mahina has put on a little weight, so yeah, he put on a little weight and he’s excited about getting to BYU once he’s done serving. He’s very excited.” Fuga’s family comes from island origins (Samoa), so Madagascar wasn’t as big of a culture shock for him as one might expect.

“The people out there are very similar to the Polynesian people,” said Fuga. “I was able to kind of fit right in, except they were a lot smaller than I was, so I was bigger than they were and really stood out big-time among them. They really don’t know much about football and didn’t know that I was a football player, so it was kind of nice going to a place where people didn’t know much about you.”

The anonymity of who Fuga is as a football player will soon disappear. The sophomore defensive tackle is now focusing on getting himself back into football shape and contributing to the team on the field.

“Things are going good for me, but it’s been kind of tough,” Fuga said. “Things are going a lot better than I thought it would be. I’m just really grateful that I am where I am at this point. I thought it was going to be a lot worse, but the football side of things have come back a lot faster than I expected.”

Aside from getting back into shape, which can be tough for anyone that has been away from the game for two years, and learning the defensive scheme once again, Fuga feels there is one aspect of football that has become the biggest hurdle.

“The biggest adjustment for me right now is I forget how hard people hit,” said Fuga with a laugh. “I just have to get used to getting hit again as hard as you do in the trenches, because right now that’s something that I forgot all about. It’s good going out there on the field and getting banged up a bit because, man, I’m not used to that the way I used to be. I will say it was fun and I’m glad to be back out there.”

In his efforts to get back to pre-mission form, Fuga received some good advice from Coach Hill.

“I’m trying to get myself back up to speed, but at the same time I don’t want to overdo it,” said Fuga. “Coach Hill just told me to take it easy and don’t try to get back all at once. He wants me to ease my way in, because if you go all-out as much as you can at first you’re probably going to get hurt. So right now I just want to get back into top playing form while staying healthy so I can contribute to the team. I had a great time and my mission was great, but my time as a missionary is done and now I need to focus on being out here now.”

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