Two years with poor in Peru humbling experience
Lavea, a 2003 graduate of Oceanside High, traveled to Peru in 2005 on a two-year mission for the Mormon church.
“It was a Third World country where nobody spoke English,” Lavea said. “There were the rich and the poor, but a lot more poor. I lived in the mountains with the poor, where there was no running water or electricity. Doing that really humbles a guy.”
Having grown up in a country where bottled water is often taken for granted, Lavea said the Peruvians in the village where he stayed used buckets to carry water to their dwellings.
“In most of the places there were no roads,” he said. “They lived off the land, grew their own food. There were no stores or anything like that around unless you had the means to travel a hundred miles to get there.”
Lavea said the Peruvians were aware of American football but hardly appreciated the game.
“They thought it was pointless, useless,” he said. “They had no interest in learning how to play it.”
Soccer is played by all classes of people in Peru, Lavea said.
“The wealthy played it in field houses or in the streets, while the poor played it in the fields or anywhere they could find a spot,” he said.
As popular as soccer is in South America, the Peruvian poor have developed another game.
“I'm not sure what it was called, but it involved rocks and dirt, kind of like bocce ball,” Lavea said.
Lavea, 23, is preparing for his sophomore season with the Palomar football team.
Lavea, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average, is majoring in biology. He speaks English, Spanish and Samoan.
His return to the football field was a challenge, said Lavea, who earned All-Southern Conference honors as a true freshman last year.
Lavea was the Comets' leading rusher with 714 yards and five touchdowns on 132 carries for a 5.4-yard average. He also caught 13 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in addition to returning 10 kickoffs for a 22.5-yard average.
“It was hard to get back into it — putting on the shoulder pads and helmet after being out of the game so long,” Lavea said. “But I feel like I'm faster and quicker to read defenses. Probably the biggest thing is I have a better feel for the game. I'm more confident and more patient. When I was younger I had a tendency to outrun my linemen, which didn't help them make blocks for me. That won't happen this year.”
Comets quarterback Matt Christian said Lavea hasn't missed a step.
“The first thing I noticed about him was he is stronger, faster and has tremendous vision,” Christian said. “Just his low center of gravity and his ability to keep his legs moving make him harder to tackle. I expect him to have a huge year.”