Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ex-Montgomery Star Koa Misi Suddenly On NFL Radar

The clock is ticking down now for Koa Misi, only hours away until he is poked and prodded, measured and weighed, inspected to the point that if a NFL team were to ask him to open his mouth to check for cavities, no one would think twice.

It's the 2010 NFL Combine, pro football's version of a beauty contest, where every prospect wants to appear attractive, even down to a big, white toothy smile.

"I'm good to go," said Misi, who starred at Montgomery, then later for SRJC and Utah. "I'm so ready to go."

Misi will leave Friday for the Combine in Indianapolis, a news event in and of itself. It was just five years ago that Misi didn't play football for a year. He wearied of the college recruiting process coming out of Montgomery. He took a break. The NFL, of course, likes its players obsessed, zealots preferably, and it doesn't take lightly or forgets for that matter a premium talent taking a year off from the sport.

"It's probably because I took a year off," Misi said, as to why until very recently he wasn't even on anyone's draft list. "Maybe that's it."

But if a player has talent, the NFL will find him. The league will let bygones be bygones if he possesses the necessary size, speed, power, agility and instincts.

It will nod most favorably that Misi, 6-foot-3, 244 pounds, has been training nine hours a day, six days a week since Jan. 4 at Athletes Performance Institute in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, one of three such facilities in the U.S. that specializes in the care, feeding and tutoring of professional athletes.

"I've been working out with a lot of prospects down here," Misi said. "A tight end for USC, a defensive end from Washington, a guard from Georgia, a defensive back from Fresno State and a defensive end from Stanford (Eric Long)."

That's the kind of fixated commitment that impresses NFL teams -- and makes them forgive and forget that year off. Intensity, of course, matters little without the skills, and Misi opened a lot of eyes with a stellar Senior Bowl performance in January.

Misi sacked Tim Tebow, Florida's Heisman Trophy winner, playing most of the game as an outside linebacker.

"I thought I did pretty well," Misi said. "I was pretty happy with what I did."

Misi, 23, rarely has been one to march in a one-man parade, sounding off to whomever would listen. Enter Kenny Zuckerman, his agent, who is more than willing to pick up the slack.

"Koa has gone from a player who wasn't even rated to someone who is draftable," Zuckerman said. "With the 3-4 defense so prevalent now in the NFL, the hardest position to fill is the outside linebacker. That guy has to be a special player. He has to be fast enough and quick enough to cover tight ends and running backs coming out of the backfield. But he is also has to be big enough and strong enough to handle those offensive linemen and rush the passer.

"Koa is that guy. He has that ability to coil like a snake and strike. Koa reminds me a lot of a guy I represented last year, David Veikune (Hawaii) who went in the second round. And Koa is even more athletic than David."

Zuckerman is Misi's agent and should talk like that. But Zuckerman is not straying too far from conventional wisdom surrounding Misi. On, Misi is referred to thusly: "Very good football instincts . . . explosive coming off the edge . . . punches lineman coming out to block . . . gets through trash to find the ball . . . very fluid in his drops . . . turns hips and gets deep quickly . . . good ball awareness . . . excellent tackler . . . will be force on special teams . . . plays through the whistle . . . high character player praised by his coaches for work ethic."

"Because there are a lot of juniors coming out this year, Koa will be drafted in the second round," Zuckerman said. "But if this was last year, Koa would be taken in the first round. He's that strong of a player."

Zuckerman is so convinced that Misi has a NFL future that he paid for Misi's entire stay at the API for the last eight weeks. Misi is doing everything to reciprocate, lowering his time in the 40 from 4.6 to 4.5, increasing his bench-press repetitions with 225 pounds from 20 to 25.

It is, however, the Combine. No contact will occur. A player make look like Tarzan but play like Jane. It always has been the knock against the Combine, too much emphasis placed on numbers, with no way to judge instincts and intensity. Misi, as evidenced on game film, has an abundance of both, now that he has settled into the position that feels like a second skin to him.

"I'm going to go back and play linebacker like I did in high school," Misi said. 
"It's what I wanted to do for a while."

Zuckerman said he thinks Misi will fall somewhere between the 50th and 60th pick in the April draft.

"His performance in the Senior Bowl really gave a lot of validity to his talent," Zuckerman said. "I haven't heard a buzz like this on a kid in a long time."

Many miles remain for Misi to make a NFL roster and then to be a contributor. But now the NFL is on Misi's horizon, not some far-off dream, like one day I'll date Jessica Biel, too. Misi now allows himself the momentary luxury to think of where he would like to play in the NFL, with the last team listed as of particular interest to Bay Area fans.

"It doesn't really matter to me where I play but I always wanted to play in San Diego," he said. "I wouldn't mind playing for the Steelers or the Ravens either. And San Francisco, maybe."

Idaho's Mike Iupati Could Be Most Versatile Find In The 2010 NFL Draft

Mike Iupati has become a projected first-round pick in the 2010 NFL draft largely thanks to the sacrifice and wisdom of his parents. The wisdom of NFL scouts will soon determine his professional fate.

Widely considered the top prospect at guard —, USA TODAY's scouting service, ranks Iupati the No. 15 player overall and the only guard projected to go in the first two rounds — he could also get a long look at the more valued left tackle position or even on defense.

"I really love defense," Iupati, who played collegiately at Idaho, said Thursday at the scouting combine. "That's my favorite passion of the game of football.


"I always try to push my coach to make me a defensive player because I know I am pretty good at that."

Iupati did play in the Vandals' defensive goal-line packages, but given his talent on the other side of the ball, the only position switch that seems likely is a shift away from his interior position.

"I'm very quick setting up my left side," says Iupati (6-5, 331 pounds), who primarily played left guard in college and models his game after Minnesota Vikings all-pro Steve Hutchinson.

But he worked at left tackle at the Senior Bowl last month. He's also received instruction from Jackie Slater, a Hall-of-Fame tackle for the Los Angeles and St. Louis Rams for 20 years.

"I need a little time with it and I know I'll be fine. You've got to give me time," Iupati says.

And time could mean cash if he shows he can protect his quarterback's blind side.

"That's where the money is."

But such a windfall might never have been possible if Iupati's parents hadn't given up a comfortable life on Samoa and moved the family to the U.S. when their son was 14.

"My family decided they wanted us to have a good education. They sacrificed a lot of stuff to move from Samoa because we were very well off," says Iupati.

Iupati's parents both worked to support the family in Anaheim, Calif.

"Lived there paycheck to paycheck," he says. "It's been hard. That's why I always take advantage of every little opportunity I get, just try to seize the moment so I can have a better future for myself and my family."

His lucrative horizon got another fateful nudge from his parents when he was attending junior college.

"I was at a barbecue function," says Iupati, "and Idaho was there recruiting J.C. players. They saw me there and they recruited me and went to my high school the next day and offered me a Prop 48 deal. I refused it, but my parents were the reason I took the offer because they took out a loan and paid for my first year (at Idaho)."

That investment appears ready to return some major dividends. And Iupati plans to repay his parents by fulfilling their dream and building them a house in Samoa, which has become a hotbed for American football, including a new Pop Warner league.

"It's very big," he says. "The opportunity, they know they can have a better future in football and just the love of the game."

Iupati does have some detractors and received criticism for grabbing and holding too much at the Senior Bowl.

"I don't know why I did that," he admits. "I guess that the pass blocking kind of changed of my game. I didn't want to get beat so I didn't want to just try to tackle them … sort of made me look real bad."

But he should be looking good come April 22, the first day of the draft.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock thinks Iupati could be a perfect fit at pick No. 18 for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team whose line has struggled in recent seasons.

Iupati thinks whatever team selects him will get a bargain.

"They're getting the whole package I think, character-wise and the physicalness," he says. "I have a lot of goals entering the league and I know I will get most of them."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mosi Tatupu, Punahou Great and Former NFL Star, Passes Away

Mosi Tatupu, who played for the New England Patriots from 1978-1990 and was a star performer on special teams, died Tuesday at the age of 54, according to the Honolulu Star Bulletin.

The cause of death was unknown, according to the report, which also indicated that Tatupu suffered from high blood pressure and other ailments.

"He was one of those fun guys in the locker room who also had fun on the field," said former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan, who was one of Tatupu's teammates in New England. "When he went to practice, he had a smile on his face all the time because he was having fun. He enjoyed playing football. He could have played in any era, for anybody at any time. It's a shame that he's gone at such an early age."

Tatupu played 13 seasons with the Patriots, starring as a special teams player (making the Pro Bowl in 1986) and as a jack-of-all trades running back. He was one of the most popular players of his era and even had his own cheering section at Schaefer/Sullivan Stadium called "Mosi's Mooses."

"I think football fans in this area appreciate a lunchpail attitude, someone who shows up for work every day and that's what Mosi did," Grogan said. "I think his personality, the spirit and fun he showed on the field, transferred to fans.

That's why they loved him so much."

He rushed for 2,415 yards over his career with the Patriots, scoring 18 touchdowns and averaging 3.9 yards per carry.

"He was not only a really good football player who could do a lot of different things for you, "Grogan said, "from special teams, to goal-line situations, coming out of backfield and catching the ball, blocking."

At the time of his death, Tatupu, a native of American Samoa and considered one of the greatest athletes in the history of Hawaii, was running backs coach at Curry College in Milton, Mass. Tatupu had also coached his son Lofa Tatupu -- now a linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks -- at King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham, Mass.


Punahou 74’s Man in the O-Men Hall of Fame: Mosiula Tatupu


 Without a doubt, the athlete in our class who received the most notice was Mosiula Tatupu, or “Mosi” as he is more familiarly known. In 1990, Mosi’s Punahou athletic achievements were recognized when he was named one of the 84 members of today’s Punahou’s O-Men Hall of Fame. The 1990 Punahou Bulletin Holiday edition included the citation for Mosi’s enshrinement on page 5. For your reading pleasure, it is reprinted here.

During his sixth grade, Mosi was a member of a pony league football team which included his close buddy, a student at Punahou. As a result of their friendship, Mosi persuaded his family to send him to Punahou the following year. This was a fortunate move for Punahou as Mosi became one of the greatest all-aroud athletes in Hawaii sports history.

In football, he was an All-State selection in his sophomore, junior and senior years. In his senior year he earned High School All American honors. He culminated his football career at Punahou by rushing for 182 yards in the Senior All Star game against the OIA’s best. His single season and three year high school career rushing records established in 1973, stood for 17 years until November 1990.

An outstanding basketball player, he won All-State honors and led his team to a State Championship in his senior year. In baseball, he was a power hitting outfielder and again a member of a State Championship team. During his Punahou career he won nine letters and was awarded numberous ILH and State All Star and MVP awards in all three sports.

Going on to the University of Southern California , he played four years for the Trojan football team. Former coach John McKay called Mosi the “best blocking back in USC history” and compared tackling Mosi to “tackling a Coke machine.” Mosi started several years as fullback and was a member of two Pac-10 championship squads plus a national championship team. He played also in several annual bowl games.

Mosi is starting his 12th year with the New England Patriots. He has been captain of the special teams for many years and made All Pro as a special teams player. Very active in civic events in his New England area, Mosi has won the affection of his community, his football fans and his fellow players. Mosi, welcome to the Hall of Fame!

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

2010 NFL Scouting Combine Participants

The following players will be participating in the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, which will be held from Feb. 24 to March 2, is the annual job fair for prospective new NFL players. For six days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, players are put through a series of drills, tests and interviews with more than 600 NFL personnel including head coaches, general managers and scouts.

Tyson Alualu
College: California
Overview: Alualu appears to be a bit of a tweener (combination of height and weight) for an NFL defensive lineman. He doesn’t have the great bulk as an interior lineman in a 4-3 front or the ideal height to play end in a 3-4 scheme. Alualu shows deceptive power for his size that can push the pocket as a pass rusher as well as penetrate the line of scrimmage as a run defender. He has quick hands to control and separate from blockers as well as solid instincts to feel pad pressure and maintain leverage in his gap responsibility. Alualu has enough tools and talent to contribute giving depth to an NFL defensive line.

Strengths: Productive talent who played at a high level throughout career earning all-conference recognition. Uses his power to hold up at the point of attack and to push the pocket. Displays the pass rush ability necessary to stay on the field on third down. Exhibits impressive hand use to gain leverage and shed blockers. Is a tough, relentless player.
Weaknesses: Only possesses average size. Lacks the ideal bulk to play inside and the height of a defensive end. Average change of direction in space and doesn’t always locate the football quickly. Only has average range in pursuit and won’t chase down plays from the backside.

Matthew Asiata
College: Utah
Overview: Asiata is a good sized running back with balance, strength and effort as a ball carrier. He lacks explosive quickness, initially, and holes tend to close up on him before he gets through them. He can get ahead of his blockers and needs to develop more patience as a ball carrier. He runs with good lower body strength and balance and consistently does a good job of gaining additional yardage after initial contact. He is not a real effective weapon in the passing game and will need work on both route running skills as well as catching the ball downfield.

Strengths: Powerfully built runner that gets low and delivers pops. Possesses good balance and has strong legs to fight for yards after contact. Low center of gravity and toughness make him an effective inside runner and a threat on the goal line.
Weaknesses: Lacks the speed and explosive quickness to hit holes fast and gain big yards. Has limited lateral agility and will not make many people miss. Does not have the patience or vision to consistently find running lanes. Not a threat in the passing game with raw receiving skills. Tore his ACL and missed the last eight games in 2009.

Mike Iupati
College: Idaho
Overview: Iupati is a massive guard that started three years at Idaho although he did miss some time in 2008 after dealing with offseason shoulder surgery. He is one of the more powerful blockers in the draft and once he gets his hands on opponents it’s pretty much all over. Iupati was born in American Samoa and English is not his native language which can slow down his progress when it comes to learning new schemes and the playbook. While it may take Iupati a bit longer to develop into a front line player, he could have a long and productive career once he settles in.

Strengths: Iupati has terrific size for an interior blocker. Plays with a lot of toughness and tenacity. Exhibits outstanding power in the running game and in pass protection. Has very good body control and balance. Possesses great short area quickness and really jolts defenders. Appears to have heavy hands in pass protection.
Weaknesses: Lacks adequate speed for the guard position. Must improve his instincts for the game and get better dealing with complex defensive line play. Because of sub-par speed, downfield blocking needs to get better. Struggles to get to the second level in the running game.
Koa Misi
College: Utah
Overview: Misi has good size and strength for the linebacker position. He has played both with his hand in the dirt as well as in a stand up position. He is a tough, hard-nosed competitor that will fit best as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Misi will need some work reading route progressions and will be a liability in pure man coverage. Wright is an aggressive defender that attacks the line of scrimmage to disrupt the run as well as rush the passer effectively. Misi is a good football player that will take some time to transition into the linebacker position, but should contribute on special teams as well as a backup as a rookie.
Strengths: Misi has the look, size and strength of an outside linebacker in a 3-4. Displays the toughness needed to hold the point of attack. Is a productive, smart player who always finds ways to contribute. Has the versatility to stand up or play with his hand down. No questions about his durability.
Weaknesses: Only possesses average coverage skills and has limited experience in this area. Is more comfortable playing in a crowd, lacks some agility in space and grasps for air on occasion. Can struggle containing shifty backs on the perimeter. Is an inconsistent reactor, especially when reading in coverage.

Tony Moeaki
College: Iowa
Overview: Moeaki has been a bit of a disappointment since coming to Iowa as the top-ranked high school tight end in the country. He has struggled to stay on the field as he has missed games in virtually every season of his career at Iowa. He is a good athlete but lacks a second gear to stretch the secondary down the middle and lacks a big burst coming out of his cuts to separate from defenders. He shows effort as a blocker but lacks the lower body strength to block with much power. His best shot may be as an H-back or a tight end that is generally split out and lined up off the line of scrimmage.

Strengths: Moeaki is a fluid athlete with soft hands. Athletic enough to line up wide in a two point stance. Maintains good body control and can adjust to throws away from his chest. Very coachable, has a good attitude and plays hard to the whistle.
Weaknesses: Lacks adequate height and does not have much room to add bulk. Limited top-end speed and agility prevents him from getting separation on his routes. Struggles to find holes in zone coverage. Does not have adequate power in his lower half and cannot drive defenders off the ball. Missed too many games due to injury in college.

Daniel Te'o-Nesheim
College: Washington
Overview: Te'o-Nesheim has been a productive four-year starter for the Huskies defense. Te'o-Nesheim is an undersized defensive end that wins with toughness, effort, instincts and technique. He lacks great quickness, burst and agility as a pass rusher but does a nice job using his hands to counter effectively. Te'o-Nesheim will have a tough time anchoring effectively versus the run and doesn't possess the speed, quickness and agility to project to an outside backer in a 3-4 defensive scheme. His high motor, leadership skills, toughness and instincts gives him a chance but he clearly overachieved in college and is not likely to transition well at the next level.

Strengths: A tough competitor who was a four-year starter in the Pac-10. Gets hands inside blockers' pads and sheds effectively to get after the passer. Prepares well and tracks the ball in traffic. Relentless effort allows him to get the most of his abilities.
Weaknesses: Does not have the size to play defensive end at the next level and lacks the athleticism to play outside linebacker. Slow getting off the ball and does not have the lateral agility to get around the edge. Gets pushed around in the running game and does not have the speed to make plays from the backside.
Manase Tonga
College: BYU
Shawn Lauvao
College: Arizona State
Michael Hoomanawanui
College: Illinois

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Titans Center Mawae To Test Free Agency

Tennessee center Kevin Mawae will test the free-agent market, his agent Mark Bartelstein said Wednesday.

His representative acknowledged that the eight-time Pro Bowler probably would not return to Tennessee after the team inked guard Eugene Amano to a deal.

Bartelstein said he talked with Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt on Tuesday, and did not believe Mawae would be offered a new contract before the free agency deadline March 5.

"All things being equal, he'd love to be back," Bartelstein said. "I think the Titans have a young guy there they are trying to bring along, and they just made a big investment in Amano. So I am not sure that the role Kevin would have as a Titan is worthy of what Kevin is as a player right now.''

Mawae was signed by the Titans after being cut from the New York Jets March 14, 2006.

During his first season with Tennessee, he helped the offense rise to fifth in the NFL with 2,214 rushing yards.
Mawae played 16 games with the Titans last season.

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Manase Tonga Interview

We'd like to say a big thank you to BYU's highly rated FB Manase Tonga for taking some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us.

Curt: What are your accurate measurements (height, weight, and 40 time)?
Manase: 6'0, 246lbs, haven't timed my 40 yet.. sorry! But if I had to guess it should be in the low 4.7 - high 4.6 range.

Curt: You have been a fun player to watch at BYU. What parts of your game do you think translate best to the NFL?
Manase: I think that my style of blocking, both pass and run blocking, translates very well to the NFL, but I know that my pass catching ability is the best part of my game and will translate the best to the NFL.

Curt: What things do you hope to improve on?
Manase: The things I need to work on the most is my explosiveness and movement.

Curt: Overall, what do you see your role as in the NFL?
Manase:Being a great lead blocker and catching passes out of the backfield on short yard situations, or any situation for that matter.

Curt: For anyone who hasn't got to lead block for a great back, what is the mindset you have knowing your job is to be the anchor of a run game?
Manase: The mindset that I have is that I must get to my block as fast as I can and with as much ferocity as I have in me. I must destroy whatever man I am responsible for and make sure he does not make the tackle.

Curt: What is your greatest football moment to this point?
Manase: My greatest football moment came my sophomore year when Curtis Brown broke the school rushing record and then my senior year when that same record was broken by Harvey Unga. Knowing that I played a huge roll in helping these two great running backs set records in their time makes me smile and makes me appreciate the kind of work that I do.

Curt: Who is the best player you ever went up against in college?
Manase: The toughest players that I have had the pleasure of playing against were Jason Beauchamp of UNLV and Daryl Washington of TCU. Both athletic, physical, and smart players. I have a ton of respect for these two and hope to play with or against them again in the future.

Curt: What current NFL players reminds you the most of you?
Manase: I liken myself to Mike Sellers. A fullback who is extremely versatile and can do it all.

Curt: Have you set any personal goals for yourself in term of draft position?
Manase: I hope to go at anytime really. I understand that the fullback position isn't an attractive position and I am comfortable with that. But I strongly feel that I can contribute to the success of any team, all I need is a shot.

Curt: What will your offseason consist of from this point, up until the draft?
Manase: I will continue training for the Combine and our Pro Day and work hard so that I can turn some heads come testing day.

Manase: I hope this will help Curtis. Thank you for this great opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts and memories. Take Care brotha!

Thanks again Manase. Fullback is an under appreciated role in the NFL these days but we're sure some NFL Halfback is going to be very glad to hear your name called by his team on draft day. Good luck, thanks for the Saturdays, and we look forward to seeing what you can do on Sundays.

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Will Cleveland, Cincinnati Gamble On Iowa TE Tony Moeaki?

Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki reminds a lot of Hawkeye fans of Samuel L. Jackson's character in the movie Unbreakable .

In Unbreakable , Jackson plays Mr. Glass, a guy with a rare disease that causes his bones to be as brittle as eggshells. At one point, Mr. Glass takes a tumble down a flight of stairs and breaks about 12 of his bones.

That was Moeaki in 2007, when he dislocated his elbow and broke his hand on the same play in a game against Wisconsin, an injury that eventually forced him to take a medical red-shirt that year.

During the 2008 season, he dealt with foot, hamstring, and calf issues, and only saw limited action in nine games. In the second game of the 2009 season, he suffered an ankle injury that forced him to miss three more games.
Can you see how fitting the nickname is?

Yet, despite his seeming calcium deficiency , Moeaki overcame the adversity of the injury bug to become one of Ricky Stanzi's favorite targets in the clutch.

In a Big Ten game against Michigan, he caught two touchdown passes of over 30 yards to help secure the victory.

In the fourth quarter of the Ohio State game, Moeaki made a key catch off a tipped pass to give Iowa a first down, helping them force the game into overtime.

The injuries aside, this kid can play some football.

Moeaki is a complete tight end. At 6'4'', 250 lbs, he has the size it takes to make it in the NFL. And that size doesn't slow the kid down at all, either.

To go along with the great size and speed, he also has great hands, as demonstrated against Wisconsin when he made a ninja-like touchdown catch in the back of the end zone to tie the game.

Perhaps his greatest, and most overlooked skill, is his ability to run block. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz hasn't overlooked it, and thinks the senior from the Island of Tonga is one of the most talented tight ends he has ever coached.

When someone like Ferentz says that about a player, NFL teams take notice.
With four months left before the 2010 draft, it is still anyone's guess as to which NFL teams will target Moeaki. The injuries might have diminished his stock a little, but there is plenty of time for him to prove himself.

So, which NFL teams need help the most from a player like Moeaki?

More Google searches for mock drafts won't help much.  Moeaki is anywhere from the fourth- to 13th-best tight end in the draft. Some mock draft sites have him as high as the late second round, others have him late in the sixth.

The Cleveland Browns might be a logical prediction at this point. With the No. 93 and the No. 104 pick in the draft, Cleveland has a few picks to use on a new tight end for Brady Quinn (or a new quarterback) to target.

Moeaki would help the Browns' passing game, as well as their running game because of his superior blocking ability.

The Cincinnati Bengals also have a need for a tight end, specifically a blocking tight end who can catch well. That's Tony to a T.

Eleven-year pro Reggie Kelly is in his seventh season with the Bengals, but was lost for the season to a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in practice. The reward in getting an all-around tight end to help fill in for Kelly could outweigh the risk.

There are several other teams rumored to be interested, too. The Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals also seem to have a need for a tight end and seem like logical options, but they might end up selecting a tight end sooner in the draft.

The only thing that is for sure is there are almost four months until the draft, and anything can happen.

The 2010 NFL Draft will kick off on Thursday, April 22.
That's when Moeaki will find out which team is willing to take a chance on him.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kemoeatu Recovering From Surgeries


Panthers DT Maake Kemoeatu is making progress in his recovery from two surgeries to repair his torn Achilles, which caused him to miss the '09 season, and plans to play in '10.

"Everything's going great, but it's very painful for him," Kemoeatu's agent, Ken Vierra, told the Rock Hill Herald. "They're working him pretty hard. Right now, he's got to pay the price. He's getting the musculature back, breaking up the scar tissue, and that's a painful process."

Vierra said Kemoeatu is "several weeks" away from jogging on a treadmill, though. And Kemoeatu is due a $9.3 million bonus next month, which would trigger a contract extension through the '14 season. If the team passes on that extension, as expected, he will be due $4.3 million next year. ...

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Polamalu Didn't Have Knee Surgery in 2010 Season


Pittsburgh Steelers star safety Troy Polamalu didn't require surgery to address the knee problems that addressed him all season, according to director of football operations Kevin Colbert.

"No, he did not have surgery," Colbert told ESPN.

Colbert also theorized that Polamalu could have possibly played in the playoffs if the Steelers had qualified.

"I know that he was practicing prior to our last game," Colbert said. "If we had advanced into the postseason, he would have probably increased his practice load, and I think his ability to be able to play in a potential playoff game would have been determined by how he practiced that week. But he was able to practice the week before."

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Tinoisamoa Expected to Return w/ Bears

Nothing is official at this point, but the Chicago Bears are expected to bring back veteran linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, who is slated to be an unrestricted free agent.

Tinoisamoa, a surprise cut by the St. Louis Rams last spring, landed with the Bears and quickly earned the starting position on the strong side. But a right knee injury suffered on the first series of the season opener at Green Bay sidelined him and when he returned the next month at Atlanta he re-injured himself, leading to surgery and a spot on the injured reserve.

The belief is that Tinoisamoa, 28, will return at full strength. The Bears were plagued by injuries at the position last season, losing middle linebacker Brian Urlacher for virtually the entire season. The team used six different starting lineups at linebacker.

Tinoisamoa was a good fit in the defense he starred in earlier in his career in St. Louis, and meshed well with the coaching staff and his new teammates. He signed a $1.5 million, one-year contract last year. What terms he will receive this time around are unknown, but he’s viewed as a valuable commodity by the team.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Arizona Adds a Samoan Football Recruit, Extending a Rich Tradition

The Arizona football team, building on its tradition of recruiting American Samoa and players of Polynesian heritage, has added defensive tackle Aiulua Fanene to its recruiting class.

Fanene, the brother of defensive end Jonathan Fanene of the Cincinnati Bengals, is from Tafuna High School on the island and was part of a recent “60 Minutes” feature on football in Samoa. You can watch it here. I’d recommend watching the whole thing if you haven’t seen it, but the part with Fanene begins at about the 6:12 mark.

Fanene was recruited by UA defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo, who has known the family since he recruited Jonathan to Utah.

In a 2006 story in the Tucson Citizen, Tuiasosopo talked about Arizona’s connection to the island.

“Others claim they have been there, but if anybody has a history, or can make that claim it is Arizona,” said Tuiasosopo, who was born in Samoa and has a nearly endless list of relatives who have played football in the United States.

“Utah and BYU can make a claim they have been involved because of their Mormon influence, but Washington and Oregon, I get a tickle out of that. They can say that now, but trust me, Arizona has a history.”

Former Arizona coach Dick Tomey, who had previously been the head coach at Hawaii, was, “instrumental in building the Samoan pipeline,” as described in a 2003 Sports Illustrated story titled “Football in Paradise.” And not just the pipeline to Arizona — the prolific pipeline from Samoa to colleges to the NFL.

The magazine wrote than Tomey had more than 120 Samoan players on his rosters at Hawaii and Arizona, spanning 24 years.

“There are no athletes that are, in my estimation, more competitive, more athletic or more family-oriented, or who fit into a team concept as well as Samoan athletes,” Tomey told SI. “The more we could get on our team, the better I felt.”

The Wildcats have sent at least a dozen players of Polynesian ties to the NFL: DL Stan Mataele, OL Mu Tagoai, OL Pulu Poumele, OT Edwin Mulitalo, TE Brandon Manumaleuna, DE Van Tuinei, OL Makoa Freitas, OL Makai Freitas, OL Steven Grace, OL Kili Lefotu, OL Manu Savea and DT Joe Salave’a.

The long list of Polynesian players at Arizona includes quarterbacks George Malauulu and Willie Tuitama. Malauulu is the president of the AIGA Foundation, which, according to its blog, seeks to “bring exposure to Pacific Islander football players excelling at the high school, collegiate and professional level.”

Many of the current and former Arizona players with Polynesian ties come from Hawaii or the West Coast, but some have come directly from American Samoa, including Savea and the late Young Thompson.

Salave’a, who was born in Samoa, lost several family members in last September’s devastating tsunami and has been active in relief efforts through his foundation.

In another good story on the subject, this one a 2000 story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer written by Ted Miller, now of, then-UA defensive coordinator Rich Ellerson was quoted about the values of the Samoan culture.

“Their physical profile is outstanding for the game,” Ellerson said, “but I think the cultural profile — the family values, the idea of sacrifice, taking pride in your performance, the importance of toughness — that’s also important. Their chances of success are impacted by how close they are to their culture.”

Family values, sacrifice, pride and toughness: In the 60 Minutes profile, Aiulua Fanene was said to “do a day’s work before school under the direction of his father, David.”

Fanene will see plenty of friendly faces when he arrives in Tucson, and he won’t be faced by the rigors of coach Mike Stoops‘ fall camp.

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Bengals' Rey Maualuga Looks to Turn Life Around

ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga will enter the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California for at least 30 days once he returns from his trip to Samoa. He is traveling with teammates Domata Peko and Jonathan Fanene to visit areas that are still struggling after last year’s tsunami. Maualuga is expected to finish the treatment in time before the team begins their offseason conditioning program on March 29.

Last week, Maualuga pleaded guilty to DUI charges after he was arrested in northern Kentucky January 29 after he hit a parking meter and two parked cars. The former USC linebacker had a blood alcohol level of .157 after police reports indicated he had drank six Captain Morgan and Coca Colas. He received a suspended seven-day jail sentence and two years' probation along with a 90-day suspension of his driver's license.

While the actions of Maualuga will hurt the reputation of the Bengals as a team trying to lose their image as a team filled with players who constantly get in trouble with the law, there is a positive to the recent incident.

As an individual, Maualuga has realized the mistake he made and is taking the right approach to prevent it from happening again. There is so much potential for him after he played such a key role in Cincinnati’s defense this season and the Bengals should be happy he’s willing to turn his life around.

Between his jail sentence and time at the alcohol treatment center, Maualuga should be a different person by the time Cincinnati begins their offseason conditioning program at the end of March. If anything, this incident may have been a blessing in disguise if he can learn from it all and become not only a better person, but player.

The Bengals selected Maualuga with the 38th pick in last year’s draft. His season was cut short after suffering a fractured ankle in Week 16 against the Kansas City Chiefs and was a major reason behind the success of Cincinnati’s run defense. He started 15 games and finished his rookie season with 63 tackles, one sack, and three forced fumbles.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fanene Captains World Team

Fanene (left) with Mosi Tatupu (center) and brother Aiulua Fanene. (IFAF photo)

A week after 60 Minutes on CBS opened the nation’s eyes to the fact that American Samoa is fast becoming a production line for NFL talent, the Bengals’ own Jonathan Fanene was encouraging the next generation of young players from ‘the rock’ to make their mark on the game in South Florida.

Immediately following the AFC and NFC practices ahead of the 2010 NFL Pro Bowl, a 45-player roster representing ‘the World’ took on Team USA in USA Football’s Team USA vs. The World Game, presented by Riddell at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Bengals defensive lineman Fanene was an Honorary Captain for the World team that featured his younger brother Aiulua among the linebacker corps alongside two other Samoans.

Fanene joined former New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams running back Mosi Tatupu to represent the World team, while former Miami Dolphins center Dwight Stephenson captained Team USA and the group accompanied NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for the pregame coin toss.

“I’m happy to be here to represent American Samoa, support my brother and his teammates and see how the World team fares against Team USA,” said Fanene, who with Domata Peko is one of two American Samoans on the Bengals roster.  “As soon I was asked to come down here, I had no hesitation. I hope I can give them advice on how to have a successful career in college football and the NFL and to enjoy playing football.”

The World team, featuring players from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico and Sweden in addition to American Samoa fared well against a Team USA comprised of 45 high school seniors who have committed to some of the nation’s top college football programs. Down by a touchdown conceded on the stroke of halftime, the World team rallied, but eventually lost 17-0. The margin of defeat was narrower than many predicted and suggested the world in football terms is becoming a smaller place.

“The World team impressed me and with a few more breaks they could have won the game,” said Fanene. “There is clearly a talent pool that exists outside the United States that is improving and growing. I want to thank IFAF (International federation of American Football) for choosing me to be a captain for the World team.”

More information on football internationally and in American Samoa can be found at

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Special Mission For Bengals Players

Bengals players Domata Peko, Rey Maualuga and Jonathan Fanene are in American Samoa, bringing an end to a long journey toward helping their beloved island recover from a devastating tsunami.

They spent months working to raise $40,000 to help the relief effort. They will present island leaders with the money in special ceremonies Monday.

Local 12's Tara Pachmayer and photographer Ed Burkholder are traveling with the trio. You can follow their stories here on and on Local 12 News at 5:00pm and 11:00pm all this week.

Tara is also blogging about the trip.  Scroll down to read her account of the trip!

Sunday, Feb 7th, 4:51 p.m. Hawaii

Just boarded a plane to Samoa. Photojournalist Ed Burkholder and I left Local 12 around 3:45 this morning. We flew to Dallas, then Hawaii. A neat part about landing in Hawaii was the flight attendant recognized all the military on board and we gave them a huge, and well deserved, round of applause.

We met Domata Peko, Jonathan Fanene and Rey Maualuga in Hawaii. We only had a couple minutes with the guys before boarding the plane. Rey said that he will go to rehab to better himself, and everyone is just focused on all the good things that will get accomplished on this trip.

I'll write more when we get to Samoa!!!
Samoa 1:17 am
We finally made it to Samoa! I can't wait to see what the island looks like in the daylight! There were at least 200 people waiting for the Samoan Bengals at the airport... most of them were members of Domata Peko's family. They wore "Who Dey" shirts and chanted his name... it was pretty cool. Peko's family has been so kind to Ed and me. They hugged us when we got off the plane and presented with lei's.

I had a little more time to talk to Rey Maualuga tonight. It is important for him to be on this trip because it is a chance for him to spend time with members of his father's family. His dad died 4 years ago, so this is a healing trip for him. We'll talk about it more in the coming days... it is just a bit overwhelming right now.

Peko has a pretty packed schedule for us. We are going to be there when the Bengals hand over that $40,000 check for tsunami relief later today, and we are going to visit every school on the island. Peko has a HUGE surprise for all of the football players here! I can't wait to share their stories! I need to catch some z's... the sun will be up before I know it. By the way, it is 87 degrees here... in the middle of the night!
1:48 p.m. Samoa

Ed and I tried to grab breakfast before leaving the hotel this morning. We went to the internet cafe at our hotel, where they were blasting Kenny Rogers, "She Believes in Me". The song played the entire 15 minutes were in there. It was so annoying, and I know that me writing this means that News Director Elbert Tucker will sing Kenny Rogers every time he passes me at work for the next year!

Today we saw the island for the first time, and it is beautiful... it looks like any tropical paradise you would image. There are, however, spots that have yet to be rebuilt. The Bengals donations will help rebuild homes for people here.

The Samoan Bengals delivered their $40,000 donation today. It was very touching... very hot in the room... but very touching. The Governor thanked them repeatedly for not turning their backs on their people. He even awarded them with medals.

We are planning a 1-on-1 interview with Rey Maualuga later this afternoon. We also have a pig roast with Peko's family this week, as well as a couple visits to high schools in the area for the surprise I keep talking about. One more exciting tidbit... the Governor invited Ed and me to a special dinner on Thursday night to honor the Samoan Bengals!
Monday, February 8th Samoa time 7:55pm... Cincinnati time, 1:55am (February 9th)

Hello again! You know how everyone thinks everyone else is a bad driver? Well, the same goes for Samoa! We have made a new friend... our cab driver, Simise. Simise, like everyone else on the island, drives 20 miles per hour... and he drives as close to the person in front of us as possible. It's amazing how driving 20 miles per hour can still be scary!

Tomorrow Domata's Aunt is going to pick us up and take us to our shoots. Speaking of aunts... all the kids here call adults that are not their parents, "auntie and uncle". It is a sign of respect. A few kids here have called me "Auntie"... it makes me miss my nephew back home in Cincinnati (Hi Ethan... I love you!).

I had a really nice sit down interview with Rey Maualuga today. We talked about the death of his father 4 years ago. His father was a military man that was a strict disciplinarian. Obviously Rey got in trouble with the law recently. He also addressed that in our interview... apologizing to everyone in the Bengals organization, his family and the people of Cincinnati. He says he made an error in judgment and will NEVER do it again. He will be seeking professional help after this trip to Samoa.

Tomorrow we are going with Domata Peko to his high school and some other high schools. He will speak to the kids there and he has a huge surprise for them (I know I keep teasing you with this... but I promise, the surprise will be revealed soon). It's so funny to see our Samoan Bengals in Samoa. I say that because they stick out in Cincinnati with their size and hair, but here they fit right in with the crowd.
Tuesday, 7:01 am Samoa... 1:01 pm Cincinnati

I'm sorry to see on that you guys are having another round of snow. I'm in the complete opposite... intense heat... which I am sure you would be happy to trade spots with me. Walking outside in Samoa is like walking in to a heat wall. And most buildings only have 3 sides, so you feel like you are outside even when you are inside.

We are waiting for Domata's aunt to pick us up... I probably should hurry. I just wanted to make sure to write about how the $40,000 is going to be used by the people of Samoa. Emergency relief dollars only go so far, and sometimes only the bare minimum is done with that money. For example, a house is rebuilt with one or 2 rooms... but here in Samoa, it's not unusual for 2-3 families to live together. Brothers and sisters sometimes share homes with their respective families. There simply isn't room for people to live.

There isn't much that goes in to building their homes... they aren't living lavish lifestyles... but they do need the space. We are off to witness Domata change some football players' lives! 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Second Championship Has Nice Ring to Colts' Keiaho

Freddy Keiaho entered Super Bowl Media Day, his video camera held high as he pointed from left to right, recording the event.

He brought the camera down to eye level, then zoomed in on teammate T.J. Rushing, who had been grabbed by a TV reporter. Keiaho taped Rushing for a moment before moving on and getting stopped himself by a reporter. Keiaho kept the camera going and recorded himself being recorded.

The San Diego State alum already has a Super Bowl ring. As he goes through this week leading up to his try for another, he’s going to preserve some memories.

“The first time around I didn’t really get to appreciate it because I was a rookie,” Keiaho said. “This time around, I have a lot more chance to enjoy it. My first year, it was a little more overwhelming. Now I have a chance to sit back and really enjoy it.”

Anyone who knows Keiaho knows he is a man of great faith, devoted to his wife of three years and a new father. And, really, he must be living right.

Drafted in the third round by the Colts in 2006, he was a reserve linebacker on their Super Bowl XLI championship team. He started most of the next two seasons, including 14 games in 2008 despite being diagnosed with a sports hernia in the season’s first month.

“You can’t run full speed,” he said. “It’s pretty painful to do anything.”

He had surgery after the season, and Indianapolis did not offer him a tender as a restricted free agent last offseason. But after visiting the Buffalo Bills, Keiaho signed a one-year deal with the Colts in April.

“They wanted me and I was coming off a pretty serious injury. It was the best thing to do at the time, ” Keiaho said.

It is possible, perhaps likely, that Keiaho leaves Indianapolis this year. He doesn’t complain about his role as a special teamer, but he started just two games this season and the man who plays in front of him, Gary Brackett, never comes off the field.

“There are always ups and downs in football,” Keiaho said. “You change from role to role. Every year is different.”

Once convinced Keiaho was healthy, the Colts brought him back because they needed him, even if it wasn’t as a starter.

“Freddie can play every position,” Indianapolis linebackers coach Mike Murphy said. “What that gives you, a comfort zone; he can play every position without making mistakes.”

While Brackett is considered one of the best middle linebackers in the league, one area there is no dropoff when Keiaho comes in — and this is rare — is mentally. A middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense, making and relaying and changing calls.

“Gary is like having a coach on the field, and Freddy is one of the few guys who can do that like Gary does it,” Murphy said. “In the past he played all three (linebacker) positions. I would not be afraid to put him in there. He is not a guy who just memorizes what he does. He learns the entire system.”

That separates Keiaho as player and likely makes him too valuable to remain a backup. He might not be a Pro Bowler, but he has the makings of a starter for some team.

Or maybe, if the Colts win another Super Bowl come Sunday, Keiaho will remember how much fun he’s had coming here two of his first four years in the NFL.

“That’s the only thing that’s important right now,” he said yesterday.

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