Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dolphins Sign G Ray Feinga

The Miami Dolphins have signed guard Ray Feinga. The 6-4, 337-pound Feinga finished the 2009 NFL season as a member of Miami’s practice squad and was re-signed on January 5, 2010.

He was released by the Dolphins on July 30, 2010, re-signed on August 12, 2010 and was waived again on September 4, 2010 before joining the team’s practice squad. A four-year letter winner at Brigham Young, Feinga started 35 games for the Cougars along the offensive line. Originally signed as an undrafted college free agent by the St. Louis Rams following the 2009 NFL Draft, he has also spent time in 2009 with the San Diego Chargers during training camp.

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Irish Want More From Te'o

The lessons learned have become more abstract, the critiques of his game more nuanced.

That's the aftermath of Manti Te'o's 21-tackle performance last weekend, the fifth-most stops in a game by a Notre Dame player ever.

To call the sophomore a finished product ignores the fact he's at the center of a defense on pace to smash last year's all-time high mark for yardage conceded. But to tag Te'o as anything but a revelation undersells just how good the former five-star recruit has been.

Te'o leads the nation with 54 total tackles. That puts him on pace for 162 stops in a 12-game season and would make him the most productive sophomore in Irish history. He's 20 tackles ahead of runner-up Harrison Smith, a sign that at least Notre Dame won't have a safety leading the team in stops for a third straight year.

But consider Bob Diaco immune to Manti Mania.

"He's playing good," said the Irish defensive coordinator. "He's making mistakes that need to get corrected.

He's got a long way to go. You can see how some of the things that he's doing in the game create a problem ? even with as productive as he was."

Diaco pointed to plays only a coordinator would notice, Te'o taking a misstep at the snap that sends the running back in the direction opposite Notre Dame's play call intended. Ask Te'o about his mistakes and he went small picture, pointing to his facemask penalty in the fourth quarter with the Stanford game out of hand.

Inside the Irish red zone Te'o latched on to running back Stepfan Taylor's grill, dragging him down. After the tackle Te'o looked over at the officials, making the kind of eye contact that guilty parties do.

"I shouldn't have looked at him, because right when I looked at him, he looked at me and he pulled his flag," Te'o said. "I was like, dang it, you got me. So I know now not to look at the ref when I accidentally grab a facemask."

Actually, Brian Kelly wants more facemask grabbing by Te'o, just of Notre Dame's other players. If somebody can bring the Irish defense along for the rise, it's the guy who's supposed to lead the team in tackles anyway. And for Notre Dame's it's a long, long rise considering the Irish rank among college football's dregs in most categories.

Kelly said he'll be pushing Te'o forward as an example of what he wants not just in a linebacker, but in a player. Te'o said he's willing to take on a new role if necessary, which doesn't mean he's exactly jumping at it.

"We always look at the grading of (players) relative to can they influence others around them?" Kelly said. "I think he's starting to get to that point where if his play is as consistent as it is, he then starts to influence others. That's a dynamic place to be."

While Kelly and Diaco insisted Te'o dropping running backs by the dozen is a good thing and not a commentary on Notre Dame's others defenders, balance isn't a bad thing either.

Last year's national leader in tackles was Carmen Messina, who played for 1-11 New Mexico. Of the nation's Top 10 tacklers last season, five played for losing teams. On the flip side, Alabama, Florida and Texas didn't have a single player among the nation's Top 100 tacklers. Cincinnati has two within a defense ranked in college football's top half in just one major category, scoring at No. 44.

Te'o's output is certainly a start, but Notre Dame needs some of its other defensive players to approach their star linebacker's production, even if matching him stop for stop is asking a too much.

"What we're trying to do more than anything else is talk about the difference between playing hard and playing with that will, that tenacity, that attitude of I'm going to just lay it on the line," Kelly said. "I think that's what we're looking for from Manti. That's what he delivered. If that gets modeled by other players, we're just better because of it."

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Newest In Clan Has Polamalu Talent, Not The Hair

Maika Polamalu is a football player on the fast track to a Division I future. The Pottsgrove (Pa.) senior doubles as a bruising running back and a run-stopping defensive back and linebacker. None of that is surprising. In fact, given his surname, it might be more surprising if Polamalu wasn't a budding football star.


Still, the muscle-bound 18-year-old isn't as obvious a Polamalu as some might think. Unlike his cousin, hair-so-beautiful-it-needs-an-insurance-policy Steelers uber-presence Troy Polamalu, Maika's hair is more closely cropped. He even sported a slight mohawk at a March combine.

And unlike Troy or his uncle, USC offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu, Maika is unlikely to spend his college career at USC in sunny Southern California. Still, the latest to add to the Polamalu family's long football pedigree is all but guaranteed to spend his next four years playing college football, and he shows every inclination of living up to the family name in the process.

Polamalu is currently burning up Pennsylvania high school fields during his final season. The Falcons are 3-1, responding from their first loss at Boyerton -- the only game in which Polamalu was held to fewer than 100 yards rushing -- with a 21-10 win over Perkiomen Valley on Friday. Polamalu scored seven touchdowns on 460 yards in the Falcons' first four games, numbers which can only increase interest in the two-way starter. The senior currently has scholarship offers from Temple and Navy, but has also received significant interest from Penn State (where his father played for Joe Paterno), Pittsburgh and Michigan State, among other schools.

When the Falcons star isn't on the field, he's probably in a classroom somewhere. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pottsgrove student athlete is taking a full five classes at the Montgomery County Community College branch in Pottstown. Already sporting a cumulative average of 91, Polamalu is likely to face little problem finishing his high school coursework in December so he can enroll in his chosen school in January for the spring semester and preseason practices. While that standardized "grayshirt" path might not be recommended for all student athletes, Pottsgrove's head football coach doesn't foresee any problems for Polamalu.

"He's a tremendous student," Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker told the Inquirer. "He's a tremendous kid, and I can't say enough good things about the kid."

Regardless of where Maika heads next, his NFL cousin will be rooting for him.

"I never felt pressure because I have uncles and cousins that played at pretty elite levels of college,"

Troy Polamalu told Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It all depends on the parenting. Some parents can put a whole lot of pressure on [their children], and some don't. His parents definitely don't do that."

"It's awesome," the elder Polamalu told Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV. "It is a younger generation of cousins that are starting to come up, so him along with a few other cousins, it's gonna be pretty cool to watch."

Considering the fact that Pittsburgh has recruited the younger Polamalu, it's possible there could be multiple Polamalus keeping an eye on defensive backfields in Heinz Field in the future. Not that there will be any trouble telling the two apart. The hair takes care of that.

"People always ask me why I don't have that kind of hair, and what happened," Maika Polamalu told the Inquirer. "My dad was one of the only few out of his brothers and sisters not to have thick, curly hair. So then, when I'm only half-Samoan, I'm definitely not going to get it."

Luckily for Maika, the hair is a less important familial trait than football aptitude. Though it might only be slightly less valuable, if you ask Head & Shoulders.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Troy Polamalu and American Samoa - Message to the Players

This is Troy Polamalu's personal message to the football players of American Samoa. This was recorded on August 16, 2010 and was shown in American Samoa when we delivered the Nike gear to the players. It was rebroadcast on local TV and radio.

 Video courtesy of "Troyfortythree"

Monday, September 27, 2010

Family Ties Bond Misi

Dolphins rookie and assistant strength coach Dave Puloka are third cousins

They had no idea of their connection. Not a single clue.

Not before the NFL Draft, when the Miami Dolphins were preparing to take Koa Misi in the second round as Jason Taylor's successor.

Not during rookie minicamp, when the Utah product showed up and began in earnest the process of reshaping his body to outside linebacker standards in a 3-4 NFL defense.

It was only after Misi returned from a celebratory dinner back in Utah with some distant relatives he'd barely even met that Dave Puloka connected the dots.
Puloka, in his third season as the Dolphins' assistant strength and conditioning coach, was working the rookie hard in the weight room during OTA's when Misi casually mentioned they were related.

"My family said they know you," Misi said.

"Oh, really," replied Puloka, also of Tongan extraction. "Who's your family?"

As soon as Misi said the name "Lavulo," Puloka knew. He checked out this unknown branch of the family tree with his cousin Lisa Lavulo, who confirmed it from Los Angeles.

"This is a couple of generations, so the exact connection, we're not entirely sure," Puloka says. "It's a little confusing."

Sione Misi, Koa's father, says they are basically third cousins.

As best they can establish, the connection dates back to Melenaite Misi, Koa's 67-year-old paternal grandmother, and Latu Puloka, the coach's late grandfather.

The Lavulo branch traces back to Ha'apai, one of the smaller islands in the South Pacific chain of 148 tiny land masses – "depending on high tide/low tide," Puloka says —that make up Tonga.

If there are 100,000 residents of Tonga as a whole, there might be no more than 5,000 on Ha'apai. And now two men with roots on that island are working for the same NFL team.

What are the odds?

"It's been weird to find that out," says Misi, who grew up in Santa Rosa, Calif., while Puloka, 31, spent part of his childhood on the island.

Not that it buys Misi any quarter when it comes to conditioning.

"I don't give him any special treatment or anything," Puloka says. "If anything I might be harder on him."

Their connection does lead to some zingers in between squats.

"I joke with him a little bit," says Puloka, who has worked under head strength coach Evan Marcus the past six years. "I'll say, 'If you slack off, I might call up your grandmother and tell on you.' "

Keeping weight on has been the issue for Misi, who was drafted at 244 pounds and has since packed on about 10 pounds of muscle with Puloka's help.

"He's good," Misi says. "Both the strength coaches will push you to your limits and make sure you're doing the right thing. I talk to Dave about eating right."

Seeing Misi now, Puloka can recognize the same family traits that helped him play defensive end at Holy Cross and attend Bengals training camp as an undrafted free agent in 2001.

"Certainly he's a high-motor guy," Puloka says. "His work ethic is tremendous. I'd like to think that runs in the family."

Misi isn't even the only Tongan on the Dolphins. Offensive guard Ray Feinga, on the practice squad, has Tongan roots as well. Fellow outside linebacker Ikaika Alama-Francis is Hawaiian, and nose tackle Paul Soliai is Samoan.

"We've got a Polynesian contingent here," Puloka says. "I kind of talk up the Tongans a little bit. I told Ray he's got some standards to live up to."

Misi, with a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown through his first two games, is certainly meeting those standards.

His third cousin couldn't be more proud. Same for the whole Lavulo wing of the family Misi never knew.

"You have to understand the cultural aspects of it," Puloka says. "Even in Tonga, there's no distinction between brother and cousin. It's one and the same. You take care of everybody."

Especially the rookies.

"You hear about the expression, 'You're raised by the town' or 'It takes a village,' well, it really does,." Puloka says. "It's a huge community. If you're related, whether you're second cousin, third cousin, it really doesn't matter. In that culture you're considered brother, sister, very close sibling."
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Tony Moeaki, Kansas City's New Favorite Target

Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Cassel ended the 31-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers with 250 passing yards and three touchdowns.

One of those scores was to his new favorite target, TE Tony Moeaki.

In the third quarter, the Chiefs were facing a critical third-and-5 as they were hanging onto a 17-3 lead over the 49ers.

"Tony was running down the field with the mike backer beneath him and I was thinking 'I have to give him a shot in the back of the end zone for him or nobody' and it just worked out for everybody," Matt Cassel told Soren Petro on 810 WHB Monday afternoon.
Moeaki, who was running a post in the end zone, had a step on the defender and Cassel put the ball in the one spot where Moeaki could catch it and the defender could not as Moeaki leaped in the air, stretched his hand out and came down with the one-handed grab.

"I thought it was phenomenal," Cassel said. "It makes my life easier when you can throw the ball up and guys make plays like that. Part of my job is to let those guys go up and make those kind of plays because they do such an outstanding job of it."

I gotta admit...the pass was pretty spot-on. Cassel, who was high with several throws in the first half, put the ball right where it needed to be.

"I make that catch every day in practice as I'm warming up," Cassel said to Petro laughing.

The former tight end hasn't caught a pass since his Carson Palmer was a quarterback at USC so you know he was joking with that last line.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gouveia-Winslow Gets Some Redemption For Virginia Tech

It was a game to remember for the entire Virginia Tech defense, which posted its first shutout since 2006 in Saturday's 19-0 win over Boston College, but there's one Hokies linebacker who likely feels a lot better than the rest of his teammates.

Linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, an Ashburn native, got the first interception of his career in the third quarter, a turnover that ultimately forced Eagles Coach Frank Spaziani to bench his quarterback, sophomore Dave Shinskie.

It was just one week ago that Gouveia-Winslow, Virginia Tech's starting whip linebacker to begin the season, saw his playing time drop dramatically after a poor performance in the Hokies' shocking upset loss against James Madison. He played just nine defensive snaps in Virginia Tech's 49-27 win over East Carolina.

Then in the second quarter Saturday, Gouveia-Winslow was beaten badly on a play action fake that resulted in a 27-yard completion to Boston College wide receiver Clyde Lee.

"The interception definitely brought my spirits up and got me through the second half," Gouveia-Winslow said. "Obviously after the JMU game, my performance wasn't what it should be ... but I never really got down. I took it as more momentum to get better."

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Masoli, Ole Miss Cruise Past Fresno State

Jeremiah Masoli and the Ole Miss Rebels got back on track Saturday.

Masoli broke a 56-yard run in the first quarter and otherwise was quietly efficient as Mississippi downed visiting Fresno State 55-38.

Masoli rushed for 59 yards on eight attempts. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 153 yards, for two touchdowns and with one interception in another starting role. His TD passes covered 30 and 4 yards at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Ole Miss improved to 2-2. Fresno State is 2-1.

The Rebels had 578 yards and built a 41-10 lead by early in the third quarter, after scoring on six of seven possessions.

Masoli's team will be at home next Saturday, Oct. 2 verus Kentucky.

The following three Saturdays are doozies for Ole Miss, though – at No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 16, at Arkansas on Oct. 23 and Auburn at Oxford on Oct. 30. 

USC's Stanley Havili Takes On Bigger Role

 After seldom getting the ball in USC's first three games, senior fullback Stanley Havili took on a big role in the No. 20 Trojans' 50-16 victory Saturday over Washington State.

On USC's first offensive play, Havili erased a 7-0 deficit by taking a handoff and breaking multiple tackles en route to a 59-yard touchdown. He also scored the Trojans' final touchdown on a 22-yard pass from backup quarterback Mitch Mustain.

Havili, who had a combined six touches against Hawaii, Virginia and Minnesota, rushed four times for 80 yards and caught five passes for 107 yards against the Cougars.

"It feels really good to touch the ball," he said.

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Ton of Tackles, Little Else For Te'o

Manti Te’o talked about his love of the game Saturday night, all the while trying to hide how much his heart was breaking.

The sophomore from Laie, Hawaii, had just recorded a career-high 21 tackles in a 37-14 deflating courtesy of No. 16 Stanford, Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

It was the most tackles by an Irish player since safety Chinedum Ndukwe collected 22 in a win at Air Force four seasons ago. Clearly, Te’o took no solace in his personal quantum leap forward.

“It doesn’t matter if you have 100 tackles,” Te’o said. “If you don’t win the game, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Notre Dame’s defense held the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense to 19 points until midway through the fourth quarter, and Te’o was a big reason.

“He played with a will today,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said of his 6-foot-2, 245-pound middle linebacker.

“He had a look on his face, a toughness to him that he hasn't displayed since he's been a player here at Notre Dame. Today is one of those watershed moments for a defensive player that we can model.”

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Fono Commends Troy Polamalu For $100K Football Donation

As a demonstration of their gratitude, all seven high schools assembled at the Veterans Field, wearing their new uniforms. Once again, the whole group burst into song. It was amazing.

A Siva Tau dance by Marist High School on American Samoa. They performed it for us when we delivered the Nike gear to their school on behalf of Troy Polamalu. These kids have great heart.

At the end of our formal presentation of the Nike equipment from Troy Polamalu, the Director of Education and the Lt. Governor of American Samoa led the assembled group in two beautiful songs. Many of the Team Polamalu members were deeply moved by this tradition.

Deutsch Nu'uelua Pu'u, one of Troy's fans on facebook, tells us about the lyrics and meaning of the songs:

Ua fa'afetai ua fa'afetai
ua malie mata e va'ai
ua tasi lava oe tasi lava oe
i lo'u nei fa'amoemoe

We are thankful, very thankful
we are pleased by what we see
your are the one
you are the one
That we have been praying God Blessed

This song is a direct "thank you" from the players and all parties involved. The old song is a story of how grateful everyone is of the things this Son of Samoa has done for his Home.

second songs says:

Ua so'ona olioli nei
lo'u loto ia Iesu
ua ia fa'aola ia te a'u
O la'u lea pese fou

I am so very happy
My soul rejoices you Jesus
you saved me
this is the new song that i sing

Pese (Pese, Pese)
Aleluia (Aleluia)
O le La (O lou agaga oe)
Iesu o le fa'aola mai
ua 'ou 'oli'oli ai

Singing (singing, singing)
Hallelujah (Hallelujah)
Your like the sun (you're the light of my life)
Jesus you have saved me
this is the new song that i sing


The first Song was a "Thank You" song to Troy and team Nike, The second song was to God for blessing Samoa through the hands of one of his own Children.

I must imply that Samoa is a very Christian based land. In Samoa you will not be able to go five minutes in any direction and not see a Church. Hence Polamalu's Christian Background being as strong as it is. All businesses are closed on Sundays at least until Church is complete. It is not a Law it is respect the Samoan People have for God. Samoa is a state where Religion and State ARE NOT DIVIDED! The motto for the American Samoa Government is "Samoa Muamua Le Atua" (Samoa God is first) And for the neighboring Island of Independent Samoa theyre motto is Fa'avae i le Atua Samoa (God be the Foundation of Samoa).
 Courtesy of "Troyfortythree's" for the Youtube footage!  

Professional football player Troy Polamalu, whose long curly hair has been insured for $1 million has been commended by the Fono for his contribution to local athletic development through his contribution of $100,000 worth of football equipment.

Last month the football gear was presented to Lt. Gov. Faoa A. Sunia, who was accompanied by Education Department director Dr. Claire Poumele. It was made by Nike Sports Marketing Manager Forrest Sherman on behalf of Polamalu, who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

For his generous contribution, a House Concurrent Resolution was approved this week by the Fono conveying sincere gratitude and appreciation to Polamalu, who the resolution says “is a household name in homes across the United States and American Samoa, especially those homes which”

Original sponsors of the resolution are Manu’a lawmakers, House Vice Speaker Laolagi F.S. and Reps. Fetu Feui Jr. and Talia Fa’afetai Iaulualo. Later the House amended the resolution to include all members of the House as co-sponsors.

According to the resolution the name ‘Troy’ was chosen by his modest mother Suila ‘Sue” Polamalu-Fiame of Ta’u, Manu’a, “for her youngest son, who mirrors his mother’s modesty as an adult.”

The resolution outlines personal information about the now 29-year old NFL player, who was born in Garden Grove, Calif. and his mother raised Troy and his brother and sisters on her own.  When Troy was nine years old, his mother took him and his siblings to visit her brother in Oregon.

“Troy truly enjoyed the town of Winston where his uncle Salu lived. It was a small community of people who knew each other well,” the lawmakers said in the resolution.

It also says that Troy’s mother and his uncles — former Sen. Fa’amausili Pola and Salu Polamalu — were instrumental in Troy’s “rise to fame.”

“Together they nurtured, encouraged and pushed him to utilize his God-given talents with humbleness and hard work,” according to the resolution, that adds Troy’s athletic talents began to exhibit in school where he was outstanding in baseball, basketball, and football.

Upon graduating from high school in 1998, Troy entered the University of Southern California and in hopes of learning more about his Samoan culture, he joined Polynesian clubs on campus.

The resolution outline several information during his football career at USC, where he “redshirted” his Freshman year and was a substitute safety and linebacker the following season.

Some of his football achievements at USC includes having been voted team captain; earned First Team All-Pac 10 Honors; named a 1st Team All American. He led his teammates with the most tackles since 1986, named USC’s first All-America’s Safety and voted the team’s Most Valuable Player.

“Troy graduated from USC, leaving a legacy of 278 tackles, 6 interceptions, 13 pass deflections and 4 blocked punt,” the measure says.

In his professional football career, Troy began in 2003 with the Steelers and his “diligent hard work with the Steelers won him two Super Bowl Championship in 2006 and 2009” and he’s been named to five Pro Bowls as well, according to the resolution.

It also noted the important and useful donation of over $100,000 worth of football equipment through his association with Nike which was shipped to the territory for local high school football players and coaches.

“The NFL-quality of the equipment has instilled a sense of pride in the athletes and Troy’s inspirational message positively boosted their morale for the entire season,” according to the Manu’a lawmakers.

“...the encouragement of those who traveled thousands of miles to present the equipment demonstrates the confidence that Troy and many others have that our children are destined for great futures if they work hard, remembering their Samoan heritage and not just themselves,” the lawmakers observed.

“The people of American Samoa commend and congratulate you, Troy, on your amazing accomplishments during your young life,” the approved resolution states. “You, along with Samoan athletes of the same NFL caliber, have continually brought your Samoan people to center stage.”

“...the Legislature of American Samoa, for itself and on behalf of the people...of American Samoa, expresses its gratitude and appreciation to you Troy Polamalu for your generosity,” the resolution concludes.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Meet Sione Pouha of the New York Jets Defensive Line

The Jets are not in panic mode after losing their Pro Bowl nosetackle, and part of that is because of the performance last year of sixth year defense lineman Sione Pouha.

Pouha got the start alongside Jenkins, recovering two fumbles in the first quarter against the Ravens.

He filled it admirably for Jenkins last year, allowing the Jets defense to keep on rolling after losing their big man in the middle. Now that Jenkins is lost for the entire season and not just the final 3 months, it puts even more pressure on Pouha and Mike DeVito to step up.

Not only did Pouha play well for a replacement player, he was far better than anyone could’ve expected from him in 2009. After not doing much since being drafted in the third round out of Utah in 2005, Pouha was outstanding as a run stuffer in Rex Ryan’s system.

According to ProFootballFocus, one of the great new-age football sites on the web, in 2009 Sione Pouha was the top-ranked run-stuffing tackle in all of football, accounting for 32 defensive stops, making the Jets run defense as tough as ever even without big Kris Jenkins.

Meanwhile, former undrafted free agent defensive end Mike DeVito was equally tremendous, dominating at the line of scrimmage both against the run and as a pass rusher. Also noted in that article was DeVito’s strong performance in the playoffs last year.

This year, Pouha and DeVito will be front and center as they take over for Kris Jenkins and Marques Douglas, a former Rex Ryan guy with the Ravens who played last year for the Jets and was recently released by the Dolphins.

Pouha is well liked in the locker room, as this fantastic piece by the NJ Star Ledger’s Jenny Vrentas reveals. Vrentas, always reliable for high-quality Jets stories, shined a light on the massive Pouha in this recent piece, as the big man has made the transition from potential roster fodder to indispensable cog in the NFL’s best defense.
Pouha, a sixth-year defensive lineman, gives everything he has on the field: willingly taking on double teams, knowing each position along the line, happily flying under the radar — and now, for the second straight season, helping to fill the void left by nose tackle Kris Jenkins.“Sione is an outstanding player in his own right, no question,” coach Rex Ryan said. “He’s basically coming into his own.”

The 6’3, 325 pound Pouha, (pronounced see-oh-nee bo-oo-ha) is hard to miss, but he was certainly a late bloomer in the NFL. Pouha is a devout Mormon who spent two years on a mission after high school, so he did not play college football at Utah until he was 22 years old.

Now he’s 31 years old, only in his sixth season in the NFL, so he does not have the wear and tear that most 31-year-olds have, which is lucky for the Jets, as he’s still a young guy football-wise.

Nobody around the league really knew who he was when he came in to replace Jenkins last year. He was just a journeyman, like Mike DeVito, before the league started to take notice that these two guys are for real.

“I like it that way,” Pouha said. “I like just being the guy that just comes in, doing my job. You can catch people by surprise.”

I don’t think Pouha will catching too many more people by surprise anymore, especially as the 2010 season goes on.

Said defensive line coach Mark Carrier, “You can just tell he’s at that point in his career where he’s ready to be a true dominant player in this defense.”

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Polamalu Went On 'Quest To Find The Truth'

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said his quest for religious guidance was an attempt to find true meaning in his life.

"I wasn't satisfied with what my idea of faith was," said Polamalu, 29, who said he felt blessed to be exposed to Catholic, Mormon and Protestant churches as a child in Oregon. "I went to church. Some days I would feel the music, I'd feel the sermon; some days I wouldn't. Sometimes, I would be crying. Sometimes, I would be dead and bored.

"That emotional experience was a very shallow experience. I wanted something that would touch my heart, not my emotions."

Polamalu started reading about religions and their history. He met with monks, even finding a Buddhist who lived in the desert in California.

"I was on a quest to find the truth," he said.

He chose Greek Orthodox and was baptized four years ago.

"The only church that I can say really never swayed was the Orthodox church," he said.

Polamalu found the truth on Mount Athos, a peninsula in Greece where he spent four days living with monks in a monastery.

Enormous, old castles dot the seashores and mountain slopes of Greece, and male monks — no women are permitted on the peninsula — live a life of confinement, prayer, asceticism and contemplation. Many monks live in caves, as they have for thousands of years.

"You're talking 1,500 years of tradition that has been passed down and unblemished," said Polamalu, who acquired a small, wooden cross on Mt. Athos that he wears around his neck at all times.

Polamalu is almost insulted when someone expresses amazement at how seriously he embraces his faith.

"We're talking about faith. We're talking about God," he said. "How can you not take that seriously? We're talking about the meaning of life, really."

Polamalu is careful not to push his beliefs onto others.

"It can lead to resentment, and that is not what you want," he said. "There is also a sense of arrogance sometimes when people are really hearty, evangelizers, and that is opposite of what faith is. Like, 'I know this better than you.' There are a lot of pitfalls to that."

Asked if it's proper to pray for victory or a game free of injury, Polamalu said: "That's for God to judge."

But he adds: "It's not about winning games. It's about winning your soul."

Full Article

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Islanders Big Factor For Team

The islanders on Sartoris Field after the Lancers defeated Glendale Community College on Sept. 4. Though they come from Utah, Hawaii and the Samoan Islands, the Islanders on the PCC football team consider each other family.
PCC football is once again playing another season of football with the help and addition of the Islanders.

This is what the Polynesian players on the team call themselves.

The Islanders come from areas of Hawaii, the American Samoa Islands and even Utah.

The group already has about 15 returning Islander sophomores and about 20 new freshman Islanders that have joined the team.

Sophomore Penieli Faasao from Pago Pago, American Samoa is one of the returning Islanders already on the squad this football season with the new freshmen Islanders who have joined him.

"As soon as they graduated high school, they started arriving the first four weeks of summer," said Faasao.

"What we can bring to the team is family and heart," said Faasao.

"We are going to try to make the team as one, and not separate."

Most of the Islanders start playing rugby by the time they are in kindergarten, but are not introduced to football until they enter high school.

"Some of us are first timers playing football," said Faasao.

Lack of opportunity on the Islands is one reason they decided to come to PCC.

"Some of us come for a better education and to pursue dreams and more goals, but it's also all about talent," said Faasao.

Freshman Keali Latseli from Oahu Hawaii was one of the first Islanders to start training with the team when he arrived earlier in the summer after staying with his brother in Utah.

"We push each other and make sure that nobody quits so we finish what we started," said Latseli.

Manako Tuifua is another sophomore who trained for the upcoming PCC football season.

"I'm always ready," said Tuifua. "I was born ready."

Tuifua also played rugby before giving football a chance. He was even on the Kailua, Hawaii state rugby team before coming to play football at PCC.

The Islanders will try to help PCC get a championship, something some of their Islander friends know first hand while playing football for PCC's rival school, Mt. SAC.

Mt. SAC will start the season as the defending state champions.

"[The Islanders] just want everyone to have an experience of winning a championship," said Faasao.

It's one thing Tuifua knows first hand. He was a state champion for judo at Kailua High School.

Tuifua was on the wrestling team and has hopes of making it to a Division 1 school to play football.

If that doesn't work out, Tuifua is also thinking about going to a Division 3 school to play rugby.

He may even join a rugby league in Riverside.

But Tuifua said his first priority is playing his sophomore season at PCC with his Islander friends and family.

"Every Polynesian considers each other family," said Faasao. " If you are Polynesian, you are family."

Of course there is one thing the Islanders miss from back home.

"We just need a nice clean beach to go to," said Faasao.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Across the Nation: Tracking Hawaii's Athletes

Manti Te'o
» Notre Dame sophomore linebacker Manti Te'o (Punahou '09) had a team-high 13 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup in a 28-24 loss to Michigan on Saturday.

B.J. Beatty
Aaron Tipoti
Michael Sipili
» Colorado linebacker Michael Sipili (Damien '06) finished with five tackles, including 1 1/2 for loss, and B.J. Beatty (Kahuku '06) had two tackles, including half a sack, in a 52-7 loss to California on Saturday. Defensive lineman Aaron Tipoti (Word of Life '08) recorded a tackle for the Golden Bears.

Kama Bailey
Jojo Dickson
Robert Siavii
» Idaho junior linebacker Robert Siavii (Leilehua '08) had eight tackles, three forced fumbles, two tackles for loss and a sack in a 38-17 loss to Nebraska on Saturday. Senior Jojo Dickson (Baldwin '07) had seven tackles and running back Kama Bailey (Damien '08) had five carries for 20 yards and two receptions for six yards in the loss.

Lolomana Mikaele
Bryson Beirne
» Arizona sophomore quarterback Bryson Beirne (Mid-Pacific '07) completed all five passes for 33 yards and a touchdown in a 52-6 win over The Citadel on Saturday. Senior defensive tackle Lolomana Mikaele (Damien '06) added five tackles for the Wildcats.

Semisi Tokolahi
» Washington sophomore defensive tackle Semisi Tokolahi (Hilo '09) had two tackles, including one for loss, and a forced fumble in a 41-20 win over Syracuse on Saturday. Safety Taz Stevenson (Mililani '10) recorded his first collegiate tackle on special teams for the Huskies.

Jeremiah Masoli
» Mississippi senior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli (Saint Louis '06) finished 14-for-20 for 281 yards and a touchdown and ran for 27 yards and another score in a 27-13 win over Tulane on Saturday.

Sam Fehoko
» Texas Tech defensive end Scott Smith (Saint Louis '07) had three tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in a 52-17 win over New Mexico. Sam Fehoko (Farrington '07) also had a tackle for Texas Tech.

Adam Sagapolutele-White
Cameron Higgins
» Weber State senior quarterback Cameron Higgins (Saint Louis '06) finished 33-for-54 for 340 yards and four touchdowns in a 50-47 four-overtime win over Northern Colorado on Saturday. Adam Sagapolutele-White (Saint Louis '09) added nine tackles for the Wildcats. Sophomore kicker Mason Puckett (Leilehua '09) was 5-for-5 on extra points and made field goals of 19 and 24 yards for the Bears, but missed a 42-yard field goal that would have sent the game into a fifth overtime.

» Pacific Lutheran senior Kyle Whitford (Punahou '07) caught the game-winning 9-yard touchdown pass to give the Lutes a 27-20 victory over Hamline (Minn.) on Saturday. Freshman Sean McFadden (Punahou '10) had 11 tackles and senior defensive back Vance Louie (Hilo '07) chipped in with nine tackles and a pass breakup for the Lutes.

» Mayville (N.D.) State freshman kicker Tyler Yamanouchi (Pearl City '10) was 4-for-4 on extra-point tries and kicked a 45-yard field goal in a 31-0 victory over Trinity Bible College on Saturday.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cabral Inspires CU`s Hawaiian Players

Brian Cabral
Today  Brian Cabral is a kupuna, a respected elder.

But 36 years ago, the legendary Colorado linebacker and long-time assistant coach was just a wide-eyed kid from Kailua, Hawaii, trying to adjust to college life in Boulder.

"I think for every freshman it`s the same, it`s hard being away from home. The farther away you go from home, the harder it is," Cabral recalled during a recent interview with the Camera. "When people don`t understand you when you`re trying to speak your version of English, we call it Pidgin English, they don`t know what you`re saying. They don`t understand you. The food is a little bit of an adjustment, the culture is a little bit of an adjustment. ...

"You feel like here in the mainland you`re on an island."

Cabral was able to adjust to his new surroundings under the Flatirons and began to thrive.

In 1976, he was a captain on CU`s Big Eight championship team, finishing that memorable season with 13 tackles in the Orange Bowl against Ohio State. He graduated in 1978 and began a nine-year NFL career that included winning a Super Bowl in 1985 as a member of the Chicago Bears.

For many young Hawaiian males, Cabral inspires hope as they attempt to use football to realize their dreams.

"I`m an island guy that left the island to go to college. I`m an island guy that went on to the NFL," Cabral said. "I`m a kid that grew up on the beach and ultimately got to where every football player wants to get to."

On Saturday, CU will host Hawaii at Folsom Field. The Buffs will open up the 2011 season in a rematch with the Warriors at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
The series means a lot to Cabral, who has always recruited his home state very well and coached some great players from Hawaii, including recent Buff standout Jordon Dizon. The All-American linebacker, who is now a member of the Detroit Lions, used to say hisNo. 1 motivation at CU was "not to disappoint my (position) coach."

Cabral explains what the game of football means to players from Hawaii this way:

"Football on the islands is bigger than life. High school football, Pop Warner football, it`s big. It`s a very physical culture and that`s why they love the game of football. ...

"We`ve brought the right guys to CU. They`re physical players, they love contact, they love the game. That`s why you recruit Polynesian kids, that`s why you recruit Hawaii."

Rainbows to Warriors

Hawaii began playing football in 1920. Then called the Rainbows, the program completed back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1924-25, outscoring their opponents 606-29 -- including a 13-0 victory over CU on Jan. 1, 1925, in Honolulu -- during the 18-game span.

Thomas Kaulukukui
In 1935, Hawaii running back and future coach Thomas Kaulukukui became the program`s first All-American. His No. 32 is the only retired number in the school`s football history. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, the Rainbows did not play from 1942-1945.

In 1955, a year after a 50-0 loss to Nebraska in Honolulu, the Rainbows traveled to Lincoln and upset the Huskers 6-0. In 1975, Aloha Stadium -- site of many NFL Pro Bowls -- was built and became Hawaii`s new home field.

In 1992, Hawaii won a share of its first-ever WAC championship and also captured its first bowl game victory, a 27-17 triumph over Illinois in the Holiday Bowl.

"As long as I`ve played here or coached here we`ve never played Hawaii," said Cabral, who wore his lava lava wrap to celebrate his 300th game as a Buff last season during CU`s 35-34 win over Texas A&M.

"We`ve played in Hawaii for a bowl game, but we`ve never played Hawaii. That`s a different challenge. Hawaii has a great history."

More recently, former Hawaii head coach June Jones (now at SMU) and quarterback Colt Brennan (NCAA career touchdown passes leader) led the Warriors to their first outright WAC title in 2007 and an appearance in the Jan. 1, 2008, Sugar Bowl, where they lost 41-10 to Georgia.

"In high school, I did start following the Warriors," said CU offensive lineman Sione Tau, who is from Honolulu. "The Warriors have been doing a lot of good things, so I`m pretty excited about the game, it`s going to be awesome. First of all, to play against friends and old rivals from high school will make it a pretty exciting game. I`ve also heard lot of people from Hawaii are coming in for the game."

Hawaii opened up the season with a 49-36 loss to USC in Honolulu and pulled off a dramatic 31-28 victory on Saturday against Army, 4,995 miles away in West Point, N.Y.

With the WAC scheduled to lose Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West, there is talk about Hawaii perhaps going independent in football as BYU will next season. Despite the fact that major programs are willing to make the trip to paradise, Cabral believes it would be tough for the Warriors to compete at a high level without a conference affiliation.

"I`m not sure about that. It`s very difficult for them on the islands financially, although the support is very awesome," Cabral said. "Independently, I don`t know the plusses and minuses. Hawaii is a hard place to live economically, it`s a hard place educationally, it`s even harder athletically on a football program."

Hawaii is scheduled to visit Boulder again in 2014 with the Buffs traveling back to Honolulu in 2015.

The next generation

B.J. Beatty
Michael Sipili
Two of the Buffs` best defensive players this season, linebackers B.J. Beatty and Michael Sipili, are from Hawaii. They will see a lot of familiar faces on Saturday, considering the Warriors` 2010 roster includes 46 players from the Aloha State and a handful of others from American Samoa.

"For me and some of the guys from there, it`s exciting. Back when I was home for the summer I was laughing because when I left I didn`t think I`d ever play against anybody from home or anybody that I knew. It`s going to be an exciting event for both teams," said Beatty, a senior from Kaawa, Hawaii. "I never really got into Hawaii football. When I went to high school I knew teammates and guys I competed against who went there, but I really never became a fan. But Hawaii football for the state is always a good thing. There are no professional sports out there, so that`s what they always have to look forward to."

Chris Naeole
Beatty won two state championships at Kahuku High School. Chris Naeole, the former CU All-American offensive guard, is an uncle of Beatty`s on his mother`s side of the family. His father Byron played linebacker at Brigham Young in the late 1980s after a standout high school career on Oahu.
"It can get down to the wire. I`ve been in some games where my heart has probably stopped once or twice out there," Beatty said when asked about the atmosphere under the Friday night lights on the islands. "It`s always pound the ball and big heavy dudes. The physical side, coaches never have to worry about us. We love to get physical. We love to come down here and hit each other head to head. It`s always good fun."

Sipili, the Buffs` starting middle linebacker, ran into some serious off-field trouble early in his college career. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in 2007 for his involvement in an attack on another student and was sentenced to four days on a  Boulder County Jail work crew, 80 hours of community service and two years of probation. CU`s Office of Judicial Affairs suspended him from school for the fall semester that year.
Not surprisingly, Cabral didn`t give up on Sipili, who has rewarded his coach by maturing. He will likely have an opportunity to play in the NFL after graduation.
"Coach Cabral helps so much. He is a big influence in my life," said Sipili, who grew up in Honolulu. "He has been a big help and support for the guys who come from the island. He makes it more comfortable for us to be here. ...
"He has always been by my side and he has always told me to take my mistakes head on and move forward. You can`t do anything else but move forward."
Freshman outside linebacker Kaiwi Crabb, also from Honolulu, is the fourth current Buff from Hawaii. Even though CU`s current head coach is on the hot seat after a miserable 52-7 loss to future Pac-10 foe Cal, Cabral -- who lettered three times for Bill Mallory and has worked for Bill McCartney, Rick Neuheisel, Gary Barnett and  Dan Hawkins -- will likely be there to mentor Crabb throughout his collegiate career.
"I made the same trip, I took the same plane over the ocean and stepped onto the mountains. I understand the transition, I understand the culture, I understand where they`re coming from," Cabral said. "That has been fun for me. One of the reasons why I do like bringing kids from Hawaii is to give them the same opportunities and experiences that I had. ...
"The neat thing about it is to see them get accustomed, to see them starting to thrive. The people like the island kids because they`re colorful, they`re fun loving, and the players on the team respond to that. To see that happen is a lot of fun for me to see."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lofa Tatupu Comes Full Circle

Standing inside Heritage Hall on the campus of USC, waiting for his soon-to-be coach, Lofa Tatupu rocked nervously from one foot to the other.

He had waited years for this moment, without any certainty it would arrive. Now he stood in the same place his father, Mosi, once stood, anticipating the arrival of Trojans coach Pete Carroll.

A door opened and Carroll practically bounded toward Tatupu, hand outstretched.

“He came in and shook my hand and said, ‘Congratulations, you’re a Trojan,’ ” Tatupu said after a recent Seahawks practice. “It’s still one of the best days of my life. It was a feeling of disbelief. I didn’t expect a scholarship. I just wanted the opportunity to play.”

Coming out of King Philip High in Wrentham, Lofa Tatupu wanted more.

He wanted what his father had. He wanted Saturday afternoons in the fall with 80,000 people cheering him. He wanted a chance to play for national championships. He wanted to be seen and, most important, he wanted to play against the best.

“I wanted to play in front of big crowds, not just the 10,000 or so we got at Maine,” Tatupu said. “The NFL? Well, I wasn’t sure about that.”

Tatupu was considered too small for the big time, a recurring theme in his life. He was maybe 215 pounds. And almost no major schools showed an interest.

“I wasn’t 6 feet tall, so everyone looked at my films and said, ‘He isn’t tall enough.’ Even my father told me I was small,” Tatupu said. “He didn’t want me to get discouraged by it.

“He kind of let me be and let me find my own way. But he knew how determined I was and he knew I wasn’t going to listen to what people were saying.”

After getting ignored by the big schools, not to mention a lot of smaller schools, Tatupu went to the only place that offered him a scholarship, the University of Maine.

But he never stopped dreaming big.

He looked at other small linebackers who made it in the NFL - Dat Nguyen, Dexter Coakley, London Fletcher - and got inspiration from them.

“I’m the same size as them and I looked at them and tried to figure out what separates them,” Tatupu said, “and it’s their mental capacity for this game. So I tried to study as much film as I could and put myself on their level in the classroom and tried to get an edge somehow. I still do. I wasn’t the prototype, but the best athlete isn’t always the best football player.”

Mosi Tatupu, who died last February, starred as a fullback at USC, then played 13 seasons with the Patriots [team stats]. Mosi got those Saturday afternoons his son desperately wanted. He got that recognition.

And even though he had his doubts, Mosi worked so his son could have those same chances, that same career. He put together a highlight tape from Lofa’s freshman season at Maine and, unbeknownst to his son, sent the tape to Carroll and to then-USC linebacker coach Nick Holt.

Holt loved what he saw on tape, then took the tape to Carroll and said, “We need to look at this guy.”
Mosi also called Carroll. And he called Carroll again and again.

“At the time we were really scrapping for players,” Carroll said. “On the tape Mosi sent us, Lofa didn’t start in any of the games, but when he got in, he made almost every tackle. We couldn’t tell how fast he was. We only knew he was making a bunch of plays.

“We were hoping we could pull the trigger for Mosi, because we love him and all of that, but when we saw how small Lofa was we thought, ‘Oh boy.’ But we had scholarships, so we said, ‘Let’s just do it.’ I just hoped it was going to work out. Knowing the history and knowing how loved his father was, we knew how big a deal it was for Lofa, but we had no idea what we were getting.”

At worst, Carroll figured, he was doing a favor for a former Trojan. At best, well he got the best. He got a defensive leader in the middle of the football field.

“He just had this marvelous savvy,” Carroll said. “We fell in love with him and he became a great player. He was one of the best linebackers who ever played there.

“He learned very, very quickly. He made sense of stuff. He was just a natural at playing the position, just as he’s been here. I’m thrilled we gave him that scholarship. Not just for Lofa, but for Mosi too. I know how proud Mosi was of him.”

Tatupu redshirted in 2002, his first season at USC.

“He did a phenomenal job on the service team,” Holt said. “But we knew as soon as he started practicing that he was going to be a good player. He just had it. He understands football.”

Now after five NFL seasons and three Pro Bowl invitations, Tatupu has been reunited with his college coach. Today against San Francisco will be their first game together as player and coach in an NFL regular season.

“He’s absolutely the same guy that I had down there and it’s refreshing to know that it wasn’t just an act,” said Tatupu. “To have him back up here is fun.

“He still has his way of doing things. He keeps it light. Everybody here is having fun. It’s good to see that it wasn’t just an act. It wasn’t just for college. He knows how to win.”

And Tatupu, who left USC with one season of eligibility remaining, is the same player he was at USC, only now he weighs 250 pounds.

“He’s made the same transition here that he made from Maine to SC,” Carroll said. “When he was deciding whether to stay (at USC), I was battling for him to stay. I thought nobody would know about him. The buildup wasn’t there for it. But he told me, ‘I know I can do it.’ ”

Tatupu was asked last week if he thought he still owed Carroll for taking the chance and offering him a scholarship. He smiled.

“I was very appreciative of the opportunity,” said Tatupu, Seattle’s second-round pick in 2005. “Definitely some things had to go my way to get to where I am now and it started with that scholarship. But I also like to think I had a hand in helping Pete win those two national titles.”
In other words, Tatupu has paid his debt to Carroll, something his once-and-future coach readily acknowledges.

“He was a great Trojan,” Carroll said.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Q&A w/ Rebel's Isaako Aaitui

When UNLV senior defensive tackle Isaako Aaitui first came to the United States from American Samoa in 2006, he spoke little English, knew nothing about Las Vegas and was still learning how to play football.
But Mike Sanford, then the Rebels' coach, saw enormous potential, calling Aaitui a "young Junior Seau."

The 6-foot-3-inch, 315-pound Aaitui, who grew up in Western Samoa, has blossomed into one of UNLV's top players and leaders.

Off the field, Aaitui -- who has two brothers with special needs -- volunteers for Opportunity Village.
Aaitui, whose Rebels (0-1) play at No. 20 Utah (1-0) at 1 p.m. PDT Saturday, spoke to the Review-Journal:

1. What was the experience like when you first began to play football?

I looked like a kid who had no idea what was going on. My high school coach wanted me to be a punter and a field-goal kicker. But he thought of the size and potential I had and put me at defensive end, and in the first game I had five sacks. I don't know how that happened. I had no idea what a great game was. I was just going after the guy who had the ball.

2. Did your coach want you to be a kicker because you were a rugby player?

Yes, I played rugby in Western Samoa. I was like 200 pounds, so they saw me as a kicker and a punter. I was thin, a little bit taller -- 6-4. But now I'm 6-3. I think I had too much weight after that. It brought me down a little bit.

3. What did you think when UNLV recruited you?

I had no idea about scholarships. I didn't have a lot of money. So when they showed up, I was like, "What do I say now?"

4. Did you know much about Las Vegas?

I never heard of Las Vegas. On my recruiting trip I thought, "Man, I have never seen a city like this in my life." I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know it was Sin City and the most famous city in America until a couple of years ago.

5. Why did you choose UNLV?

The lights of Las Vegas got my attention, and I wanted to stay here. I thought, "This is it. This is my dream."

6. How difficult is it to be so far from home?

It's hard. I think a lot of Polynesian kids feel homesick. I haven't seen my family for six years. I haven't been back since. ... Last year when the island got hit by the tsunami, it was really tough, and that's when we played Reno. I called back after the game, and they said they were fine. It's so expensive (to travel back). That's a big issue for me. We would have to pay a fortune to go back home.

7. How long did it take you to feel comfortable speaking English?

It took me one year, although I still mumble sometimes. No one translated to me. I just figured it out.

8. Was it difficult to learn the playbook and understand coaches' signals?

It was really tough. I asked some of the seniors how they learned. They learned it by walking through the plays. The most important thing is to know every position in the defense ... what they're going to do and what you're going to do.

9. How satisfying is volunteering at Opportunity Village?

I love visiting and talking to the kids. I have two brothers who kind of have the same problem. I (would be) glad to go back and serve them after I graduate. I love to help.

10. How important are your brothers to you?

I've got to do things that make them happy. When I was in the seventh grade, my mom passed away and I was the oldest in my family. My brothers looked up to me. The thing I still carry in my heart is to help.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Auburn's Danny Shelton Hoping For Better Finish To This Season

The childhood bully became a high-school teddy bear.

But Auburn's Danny Shelton is still a terror on the football field.

At 6 feet 3 and just less than 300 pounds, Shelton dominates on the line with moves like a linebacker.

Opposing coaches tell stories of him swatting away blockers with one arm and his legend on the wrestling mat grew quickly as he learned the sport just last season, reaching the 4A state semifinals at 285 pounds.

Tahoma coach Tony Davis remembers watching in awe as Shelton made a catlike move in one match.

"My jaw was on the ground," Davis said. "This is someone almost 300 pounds. You're not supposed to be able to do that. ... I've got to imagine the sky's the limit for him. He's a scheme-adjuster. Whether he's on offense or defense, you've got to locate him and then do something different than you probably want to do."

As a kindergartner, Shelton tried to do whatever he wanted.

"He was a troublemaker," said his mother, Oneone (pronounced OnayOnay). "He tried to take food from kids and beat them up."

The fourth of five children, Shelton lived with his grandparents in Samoa until he was 3 and didn't speak English when he came to live with his parents in California. It took him a while to adjust to his siblings.

"I kept yelling at them in Samoan," he said.

The parents divorced and Oneone brought the children to Washington, first Tacoma and then Auburn in 2000. Her brother, Steve, came with his family, too, and became a father figure to his niece and nephews.
The two of them kept Danny in line at school and got him involved in church activities. He still participates in some Samoan dance performances. As a seventh-grader at Cascade Middle School, he played organized football for the first time and found it the perfect channel for any pent-up frustrations.

"I get to build anger through the day, then let it loose when it comes to games and practice," he said.

He apparently masks his anger well. Teammates Nick Conlan and Dylan Rutledge call Shelton shy and a big teddy bear.

"He's the hardest-hitting nice guy you'll know," Rutledge said.

Shelton's two older brothers played at Auburn, and Danny frequently tagged along at practice. Coach Gordy Elliott noticed his intense interest in the game. While other 10-year-olds soon ran off to throw a ball around, Danny took everything in.

"Even then he was a student of the game," Elliott said.

And a big one. Too big, in fact. Danny was born with high blood pressure, which required a two-week hospital stay, and he weighed 320 pounds by the time he was 14. His mom took him to a specialist in Tacoma, who guided him toward a better diet.

Danny played on Auburn's freshman football team that season, "even though he was probably better than some of the seniors ahead of him," Elliott said. Shelton saw his first varsity action in the SPSL 3A final against Auburn Riverside and recorded two tackles. He appeared in the Trojans' two playoff games and became a full-time fixture on the line as a sophomore, when he started making recruiting lists.

"My sophomore year is when I blew up, I guess," Shelton said.

Auburn went 11-0 before losing in the 3A state quarterfinals to Skyline.

Back in the 4A ranks last season, the Trojans again finished 11-1. Shelton was named the offensive and defensive lineman of the year in the SPSL North Division, even though he missed parts of two games with a sprained foot.

"I don't think I deserved the awards I got," he said. "I don't think I did as good as I could have, and this year I'm going to make up for that."

Shelton said he made a goal for himself as a freshman to develop into the best lineman in school and state history. Those things are hard to gauge, Elliott noted, but said, "I can't imagine there have been too many that have the tools that he has."

Shelton, who just turned 17, was named the "Big Man MVP" at the UCLA camp this summer and has the Bruins on his top-four list, along with Washington, Oregon and California.

And while most tend to look at him as a prospect on defense, Elliott raves about his abilities on offense.

"At his age already, some of the things he can do on offense are things it takes college kids a couple years to learn," he said. "For his size, he's really athletic, that's what sets a kid like him apart from other big kids. If you're big, you're big, and sometimes you're able to do things in high-school football just because you're big. He would be as effective a lineman at 175 pounds with the same skill set. He could easily be a starting tight end for us. He's a total athlete."

Wrestling helped Shelton with his footwork, strength and conditioning. He also competed in track and field, placing fifth at state in the shot put and sixth in the discus. This year he has visions of wrestling and playing basketball, although that seems unlikely due to practice and scheduling conflicts.

More than anything, Shelton wants to finish business on the football field after what he felt was a disappointing climax to last year's season.

"Our goal together this year is to make it the best year and win state," he said. "We have the talent, and I think we're ready to do it. It's our last shot."

And for teddy bear Danny Shelton, anything less would be unbearable.

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