Linebacker chooses Colorado State
Drew Schmenner The Desert Sun
After he started at defensive end for two years, La Quinta High School senior Nuuvali Faapito was moved to linebacker last season.
Nuuvali Faapito of La Quinta High School, signs his national letter of intent to play football at Colorado State University on Wednesday at La Quinta High School. Standing behind him: His mother, Christy Vandever (left), his father Nuuvali Faapito Sr., and step-father Pascal Sijen (right).
The switch paid off.
Faapito is officially headed to Colorado State after he signed his national letter of intent Wednesday. He committed only two weeks ago after numerous schools pursued him late during the recruiting process.
"So far in my life, this is the greatest thing ever," he said.
Blackhawks coach Dan Armstrong decided to shift Faapito to linebacker last year. Key starters at the position had graduated, and the coach was impressed by his speed and instincts when he watched Faapito play rugby for La Quinta.
The 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker initially struggled to grasp the position's intricacies, but soon he was thriving. Faapito, who also started at fullback for three years, led La Quinta with 116 tackles last season.
"I knew he was going to get a scholarship," Armstrong said. "It would just be a matter of getting his name out."
Faapito wasn't on the radar of many schools until the Blackhawks' season ended in December. Armstrong had to wait to send out the linebacker's highlight reel because he had just learned the position.
The tape was impressive, but it was sent too late for some schools, which had already settled on their recruits at linebacker. Colorado State defensive coordinator Larry Kerr initially told Armstrong that he thought the Rams' slots were filled, but that changed immediately after Kerr watched Faapito's highlights.
Other schools such as San Jose State and San Diego State were also interested in Faapito, but the senior fell in love with Colorado State two weeks ago when he made his official visit to Fort Collins, Colo.
It took him only a few moments to commit to the Rams after head coach Steve Fairchild offered him a scholarship.
"I couldn't like not take it," he said with a laugh.
The coaching staff's camaraderie impressed Faapito, reminding him of the close bonds he had formed at La Quinta.
The cold climate was also a draw. He is eager to leave behind the desert's stifling temperatures. Ever since he first went to Big Bear Lake two years ago, Faapito has been an avid snowboarder. He goes there once or twice a month during the winter.
His father's heritage certainly didn't impel him to embrace winter sports. Nuuvali Faapito Sr. is a Samoan native who moved to the United States in 1979. His son was born in Long Beach.
The elder Faapito was beaming Wednesday.
"It's humbling and exciting," he said.
The signing day was especially sweet for Christy Vandever, Faapito's mother, who was also celebrating her 39th birthday.
"It's the best birthday present ever," she said.