Saturday, March 17, 2012

Catching Up With The 'Cats: LB Francis Maka 10/28/2011

Maka Led The Team In Numerous Categories In 2011

Francis Maka was born with one of the more unique middle names thanks to his Tongan background. His middle name, Tulikimoana, literally translated means, “To Chase The Wave,” and is a fitting translation considering the role he plays in the SaberCats defense. A position that is unique to the game of Arena Football, Maka plays the MACK linebacker position who’s primary responsibility is to be a playmaker and get after the quarterback, something Maka did very well in 2011.

In his rookie season in the AFL, Maka tied for the team-high in sacks (5.0) while leading the team in quarterback hits (11), fumble recoveries (3) and was responsible for one of the San Jose’s blocked kicks, despite being sidelined with an injury for three games. While his life on the field proved to be very eventful, his life off of it was even more so as Maka became a first-time father in the middle of the year. It is a role that he has really taken to during the 2011 offseason as he sees so much of himself in his young son.

“It’s awesome. People are always telling me he looks like both me and his mother and you can see a lot of distinguishing features. With me, he has my forehead and my eyes. My forehead is pretty unmistakable, it’s pretty big. He has his mother’s nose and ears. So, he looks exactly like both of us, but then his personality is crazy. I feel like he gets that from me, as far as his personality which is awesome.”

“He smiles at everything and he’s not a hard baby to deal with at all. He’ll wake up in the middle of the nigh and cry for a bottle, but his cry is like a little whimper. When he’s awake, he’s staring, he’s engaged with people, he looks everybody straight in the eye. He’s a pretty chill baby.”

Maka comes from a large Tongan family. He is one of five children and his mother is one of 10 while his father is one of eight. By his last tally, Maka counted 74 first cousins, giving him a large base for whom to name his first child after. With it being his first born, Maka wanted to make sure he gave his son a name that meant something to him and his girlfriend. He decided to name him after a couple members of his immediate family.

“His name is Soane Tatola. Soane is actually the name of my mom’s youngest brother who passed away. He passed away a long time ago so that’s why we named him after my mom’s brother. It’s also somewhat my dad’s name which is Sione and they both mean John in Tongan, so it’s kind of a tribute to both my dad and my uncle. Tatola is my mother’s maiden name.”

While Maka has been making preparations off the field for his new family, he hasn’t forgotten about what lies ahead of him in 2012. With a rash of injuries to the San Jose defensive corps, it became difficult for him to find his game, but he is excited by who he will get the opportunity to play behind this coming year in three-time All-Arena nose tackle Tim McGill. Much of what Maka can do on defense is predicated on the penetration and push the nose tackle gets on a given play. With arguably the AFL’s best nose tackle ahead of him, Maka sees endless possibilities for him and the SaberCats defense.

“He has an amazing burst and push into the backfield. I feel like with him, I’ll have free reign to do whatever. It’s going to make my job a lot easier. A lot of our defensive scheme on the line is based on the movement the nose and the linebacker can create because for the most part the defensive ends just outside rush. Everything pretty much relies on what we do in the middle. With him he’s quick, he’s explosive and he’s strong as all hell. So he’s going to make it a lot easier for our entire defense.”

Couple the addition of Tim McGill with new defensive coordinator Cedric Walker, Maka sees no quit from this defense in 2012 as he has set his standards high heading into next year.

“I respect his philosophy as far as how he wants to run the defense. He seems like he is going to work us so that he can get the most out of us. I feel like he’s going to be what we need and that he’ll be the Arbet of the defense. He’s not going to take any crap.”

With the additions the team has made with the drive to succeed, ‘Cats fans can expect a potent defense in 2012 with Maka living up to his namesake. He’ll be chasing waves on the football field as he hopes to bring another championship to the city of San Jose.

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