Friday, January 28, 2011


Faitele Faafoi spoke only limited English when he arrived at Tustin High almost four years ago.
He also had never played football. He grew up playing rugby in his native Samoa.
So imagine the pride that will swell in the Tillers’ football program Friday as Faafoi departs for an official recruiting to Arizona. The senior is academically qualified for the university and has a scholarship offer from the Wildcats.
Yes, Faafoi is one recruit who cleared his share of hurdles before landing a scholarship offer.
“I’ll be using him as an example for kids that come to me for the next 20 years,” Tustin football coach Myron Miller said. “I’m really proud of him.”
Faafoi’s family in Samoa also is proud.
They sent their son to the United States to get a high-quality education. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Faafoi resides with his aunt, Eteline, and uncle, Tasi.
His parents and three younger siblings live in Apia, the capital city in Samoa.
Faafoi said he struggled to comprehend English as a freshman at Tustin.
“I didn’t know much English,” he said. “Ninth grade was pretty tough for me.”
Faafoi said communicating with his classmates helped him learn English.
School work also was challenging.
He said as a sophomore, he had some doubt that he could qualify for a four-year college.
But Faafoi decided to keep pushing himself to excel in the classroom. He also made up a couple classes by taking on-line courses.
His overall grade-point average is now 2.9 but Faafoi vows his average will be above 3.0 before the end of the school year.
“Just work hard and you’ll get there,” he said. “My sophomore year, I started realizing how important grades are. … I really wanted to go to college.”
Faafoi also overcame obstacles on the field. Besides being new to the sport, he suffered a dislocated knee cap that cut his junior season short.
And as senior, he switched from defensive line to left tackle. He was selected first-team All-Empire League and third-team All-County as an offensive lineman.
Arizona is recruiting him as an offensive lineman.
But when Faafoi talks about college football, he is quicker to mention his academics than playing time.
“I bet he graduates from college,” Miller said. “The last two years, (the importance of academics) really clicked (with him).”

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