Friday, August 31, 2012

Helu further shakes up Washington backfield with impressive performance

Yesterday in NFL | Matthew_Shovlin | 171 respect
Redskins' running back Roy Helu returned impressively from his sore Achilles' on Wednesday night, shredding the Buccaneers' second string defense to the tune of 90 yards on 6.0 yards per carry and two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 34 yards.

As one would expect with a Mike Shanahan offense, who is going to be getting the bulk of the carries when the season starts is completely up in the air. Just a few weeks ago, Helu was dealing with two sore Achilles', and fellow running back Tim Hightower was dealing with a slow recovery from knee surgery, making it look a lot like Evan Royster would be the Redskins' opening day starter. When Royster's sore knee sidelined him in the third preseason game, rookie Alfred Morris ran for over 100 yards and had Shanahan saying he was squarely in the hunt for the starting job.

Morris and Hightower were rested in the preseason finale, and most speculate that sitting them is an effort to keep them fresh for a big role in Week 1. Just when everything seemed to be settled, the Redskins most skilled runner, Helu, puts together a performance worthy of playing time.

Morris seems to be a lock for early down work to start the season, with Hightower locked in to the third down pass catching role. However, Helu could cut into both of their snaps significantly very early in the season. Morris, a sixth round pick out of Florida Atlantic, has one good preseason game to his name, and could very well struggle when he's thrown into the fire next weekend. Hightower does not provide much in the way of open field talent, and though he is a good route runner and pass catcher, Helu possesses the same skills with more big play ability.

I expect Morris and Hightower to start the season as the one two punch, but when Helu gets a few spot carries and looks better than Morris, Shanahan will ride the hot hand and end up giving Helu the bulk of the touches. I also expect Helu, who has a 14 catch 105 yard game on his resume, to cut into Hightower's pass catching role as well.

This is a situation to avoid in fantasy football until the later rounds. Morris is draftable, as he should get plenty of carries early in the year and has the potential to surprise me and maintain a solid role for the whole season. Helu is also draftable due to his upside. He probably won't give you much for the first couple weeks, but he should get more and more touches as the season progresses. I wouldn't go near Hightower or Royster at this point.

But then again, Mike Shanahan is the head coach, and I don't think even Adam Schefter knows what that guy is thinking when it comes to running backs.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Manti Te’o Limits Navy Options

Lou Somogyi

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo didn’t need to look at the stat sheet in last year’s 56-14 loss at Notre Dame to know how much Manti Te’o controlled the game.

Manti Te'o had a dominant performance in last year's 56-14 victory versus Navy.

“We tried to misdirection him, tried to get him lost and tried to do some different things with eyes, and that kid was dialed in,” Niumatalololo said. “We tried a lot of different blocking schemes, and we could not get him blocked.”

Officially, Te’o finished with 13 tackles (2.5 for loss) while helping limit the Navy offense to 229 yards total offense, including just 196 on the ground, well off the 312.25-yard rushing average it finished with during its 5-7 season. Te’o downplayed the compliment because Niumatalolo happens to be “Uncle Ken” to him, the cousin of his father, Brian.

“I only see my uncle Ken after the game,” he said. “The only thing he tells me is ‘I love you, nephew.’ It’s always good to see one another.

“I was just flowing throughout the game, picking up tendencies and I was just using my instincts. My guys did their jobs … that’s the biggest thing I got out of it is that I helped my team win.”

It was a gratifying win for Te’o after going 0-2 against the Midshipmen his first two years. The first loss, 23-21, pretty much set the wheels in motion for former head coach Charlie Weis’ ouster. The second, 35-17 in 2010, was a humbling experience in which the Irish defense yielded 367 yards rushing while being unable to adjust to Navy’s alignment. That is why Te’’o cannot take anything for granted despite last year’s blowout and the 17-point spread favoring the Irish this year.

“I think a lot of people think Navy is tough to play because of their scheme,” Te’o said. “Their scheme has nothing to do with the way they play. They play to the whistle, non-stop playing, no talking, just do their job and get back to the huddle. So when you have a team like that, that’s what makes it hard … they’re always competitive.

“That’s what football is all about. You line up on the opposite side of a guy and expect him to give you his best and you give him your best … that’s pure football right there.”

Te’o is the face of Notre Dame’s defense, if not the entire program, that is one of 13 Football Subdivision teams that has allowed less than 21.0 points per game each of the last two seasons. Alabama is far and away No. 1 during that time with a 10.85 cumulative average those two seasons, while LSU is second at 14.63.

If Notre Dame is to enter BCS territory or beyond, Te'o and Co. might need to ratchet it up to a level where the scoring defense falls into the teens. That hasn’t occurred since 2002, when it yielded only 16.7 points (9th place finish nationally) per game and propelled a surprising 8-0 start through the first two months of the season.

Named one of four captains this year, along with Kapron Lewis-Moore, Tyler Eifert and Zack Martin, Te’o was deeply moved when one teammate after another came up to congratulate him and inform him how much he deserved the title.

“That meant more to me than actually being named the captain,” Te’o said. “It showed that I’ve got the trust of my teammates, and when I have that trust of my teammates, we can do big things.

“It’s the first time I feel like I’ve accomplished something that is worth something”

Even with recent setbacks such as the two-game suspension of senior running backs Cierre Wood, the top Irish rusher the past two seasons, Te’o is dispensing sage advice to teammates.

“My dad always says, ‘A smart guy learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others,’” Te’o said. “Hopefully our guys learn from this from other brothers who went down.”

Notre Dame has fallen down plenty of times on the gridiron even with Te’o, who is 22-16 in his three seasons. The time to put all that learning to good use has arrived in his final chance with the Irish.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Te’o, Eifert Headline 2012 Notre Dame Captains

August 27, 2012 // Notre Dame Football

Author: Frank Vitovitch Filed in: Notre Dame Football (Archive)

Manti Te'o was named one of four captains for the 2012 season by Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly on Monday. (Photo - Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE )

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly announced the captains for the 2012 season on Monday night and senior All Americans Manti Te’o and Tyler Efiert headline the quartet of captains with Kapron Lewis-Moore and Zack Martin joining them as season long captains.

Manti Te’o and Tyler Efiert have both found their names on numerous first team All American lists this pre-season as two of the premiere players at their positions in the country. Both standout players had the chance to leave early for the NFL this past season, but both decided to return for their senior seasons – Te’o in the final year of his eligibility and Eifert with an additional season remaining in 2013 should he choose to use it.

Along with Te’o and Eifert, 5th year senior defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore and senior left tackle Zack Martin form Notre Dame’s 2012 captains. Lewis-Moore potentially could have left for the NFL after the 2011 season, but an injury midway through the season made a jump to the NFL unlikely for the Texas native. Martin meanwhile enters his third season as a starting left tackle for Notre Dame with an additional year of eligibility left.

Te’o and Lewis-Moore both expressed how excited they were to be named captains by their head coach via Twitter.

Manti Te’o - “Humbled to be able to represent my teammates as one of this years captains! Love my team! We are ND!”

Kaprin Lewis-Moore - Words cant describe how excited i am I just want to say its an honor and also a privilege. I am very humbled. Thank you so much for the congratulations and support. There are a lot of guys on the team that are just as deserving as i am. I love my teammates past and present. And can’t wait till sat to play again! Again thank you and also congrats to @MTeo_5 @thegob70 and @EiferTy80.

Last season Notre Dame had just one line season long captain in Harrison Smith after Michael Floyd lost his captaincy role before the season following his off-season DUI arrest. Floyd was able to redeem himself, however, and was named a gameday captain for the Champs Sports Bowl.

None of Kelly’s selections for captains should come as much of a surprise to anyone. Te’o is pretty much the face of the 2012 Notre Dame squad and the first legitimate star linebacker in a years. He also embodies the values of a captain both on and off the field possibly better than anyone else to come through Notre Dame in some time.

One player not named a captain that very well could have been is senior center Braxston Cave. Ever since he was recruited by then head coach Charlie Weis, Cave has been a leader for the Irish squad and was integral in keeping together what turned out to be the highest rated recruiting class under Weis.

Peyton Siva Named First Team All-American By Blue Ribbon Yearbook

by Mike Rutherford on Aug 29, 2012 12:45 PM EDT in Basketball

The first major honor of the preseason is in for Louisville point guard Peyton Siva, who has been named a first team All-American by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.

Siva also graces the cover of the publication, which is available for purchase online.

The other players featured are fellow first team All-Americans Tyler Zeller (Indiana), DeShaun Thomas (Ohio State), Doug McDermott (Creighton) and Michael Snaer (Florida State).

49ers made a roster move Stanford swap: Masifilo back in, Beeler out

August 29, 2012

The 49ers made a roster move today, releasing former Stanford center Chase Beeler and re-signing former Stanford defensive lineman Matt Masifilo, who was cut on Monday. The team may have found itself light along the defensive line after Demarcus Dobbs' recent injury -- he was on crutches this week -- and after cutting Masifilo and fellow undrafted rookie Patrick Butrym.

The starting units are not expected to play long in Thursday's preseason finale and there likely is a reluctance to expose starters and key backups to injury. Behind starters Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga and Ray McDonald are Ricky Jean Francois, Will Tukuafu, Dobbs, Ian Williams and Tony Jerod-Eddie.

The 49ers also released center Jason Slowey on Monday. Daniel Kilgore is the No. 2 center behind Jonathan Goodwin; Derek Hall also played some center this offseason.

-- Matt Barrows

Oregon State Beavers football: Isaac Seumalo makes history

Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2012, 2:17 PM Updated: Tuesday, August 28, 2012, 2:41 PM
By John Hunt, The Oregonian

Isaac Seumalo has become a leader, albeit a young one.
CORVALLIS – When Isaac Seumalo trots onto the field, it will mark the first time in 34 years that a true freshman has started at center for Oregon State.

According to OSU, Roger Levasa was the last one to do it, on Sept. 30, 1978 against Washington, and Hawaii’s Ben Clarke is the only current FBS freshman starter at center.

“Oh,’’ Seumalo said.

His story is now familiar to OSU fans. Son of defensive line coach Joe Seumalo and brother of defensive tackle Andrew Seumalo, he is the homegrown hope of the Beavers’ beleaguered offensive line.

What you might not know is that, despite his freshman status and soft-spoken nature, Isaac Seumalo already is a leader of the line.

“He’ll get after you,’’ offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “He’ll speak his mind. He’s not taking any (guff) from anybody.’’

For Cavanaugh and coach Mike Riley, Seumalo’s progress this fall has been expectedly extraordinary. After all, he has been around the team longer than any other player besides his brother, and he’s usually the last player to leave the practice field.

“He’s been a great student, he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around,’’ Cavanaugh said. “It’s real important to him, he wants to be good. The kid’s on a mission. It’s going to be exciting coaching him for four years.’’

Riley said that Seumalo is, “pretty much wise, tough and talented beyond his years,’’ but that Nicholls State would be a good first test for his new center/savior.

“It won’t be easy for him, it will be very, very tough,’’ said Riley, who likened the Colonels’ size inside to his own 354-pound defensive tackle Castro Masaniai. “They have a couple of Castros that roll in and out of there.’’

Seumalo, at 6-foot-3 and 302 pounds, will go up against the Colonels’ 330-pound nose tackle, Edet Udoh. Handling him would help Seumalo’s leadership qualities.

“I want to be that guy,’’ Seumalo said of being a leader. “First, you have to play good to earn respect on the football field. After that, it’s pretty easy.’’

- John Hunt

Monday, August 27, 2012

FB Matt Asiata

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Matt Asiata is a surprise; a depth signing that wasn't expected to make waves, he's impressed in the preseason.

Nominally a fullback, he's generally expected to be a lead blocker, especially in the modern NFL.

Instead, Asiata has been atop the Vikings leaderboard in rushing yards, with 91.

He has shown not just the powerful running style one expects from a fullback, but deceptive agility. He's been able to make decisions on the fly very well and fits well into Minnesota's zone blocking system.

Given good blocking, Asiata can generate good yardage on the ground. He has shown the ability to shed tackles and runs well up the gut.

More than just a ball-carrying fullback, the undrafted sophomore out of Utah has shown pass blocking and run blocking capability as well. He has held up well in pass protection, and has even served as an example in offseason practices for having good technique.

Matt Asiata has had a typical NFL journey for unheralded players. In Utah, he averaged 4.5 yards a carry, and scored 24 touchdowns.

He spent a brief amount of time signed with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League, but then signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2011, eventually making it to the practice squad. He was cut in early 2012, but has signed once more with the Vikings in hopes to make the squad.

Naturally, he hopes to crack the squad again, but if he doesn't, he's going to play in the NFL for another team—the Vikings won't be able to stash him on waivers.

Competing for a fullback spot are presumed favorite Jerome Felton and fellow practice squad holdover Ryan D'Imperio. Asiata's skill as a runner have given rise to rumors that he may compete as a halfback, in which case he would be the underdog against Jordan Todman, who will take a significant number of snaps against Houston in place of the underperforming Lex HIlliard.

Arizona tackles Maiava and Ebbele duke it out for starting spot

By KYLE JOHNSON Published August 27, 2012 at 1:52am Updated August 27, 2012 at 1:52am

Larry Hogan/Arizona Daily Wildcat Offensive lineman Lene Maiava, No. 77, competes for a right tackle starting position with teammate Fabbians Ebbele, ...

The theme of the offensive line entering 2011 was inexperience. This year, the narrative has switched, as at least four positions on the line will have starting experience, versus the combined one career start the team had last season. The fifth spot, at right tackle, was occupied by sophomore Fabbians Ebbele in the last coaching regime under Mike Stoops, but with Rich Rodriguez in tow, Ebbele is locked into a battle with redshirt freshman Lene Maiava for the chance to return as a starter.

“Right now, (the battle) has proven to be a good problem for our team to have,” offensive line coach Robert Anae said.

Ebbele started 11 games for the Wildcats last season, but an off-field incident resulted in his suspension from spring camp and then a nagging foot injury has limited him in fall practices. That left the door open at right tackle and redshirt freshman Lene Maiava has taken advantage.
They both have unique individual strengths, Anae said, but the coaching staff is still waiting for one to separate from the other.

As of now, the position battle has been on a day to day basis as the starting spot is still up in the air.

But unlike a lot of the other question marks still remaining on the depth chart, this one comes from both players being productive, not for a lack of talent.

“If both of them deserve to play, they’re both going to play,” senior center Kyle Quinn said. “They’re both great players. They both put in unique attributes to their position. So if we play both of them, then we can win with both of them.

“Whoever is out there, we’re going to keep the train rolling with this offense. It’ll be good either way.”

Both players bring big bodies to the right tackle spot, but the 6-foot 8-inch, 310 pound Ebbele brings just a little more size to the position than the 6-foot 5-inch, 275 pound Maiava.
“(Ebbele) is an animal,” Quinn said. “He’s a really big guy and he throws his weight around and just runs people over, so it’s great to have him back out there.”

But because of the suspension and the nagging injury, Maiava has had his chance to get some reps and has become a legitimate contender for the starting role.

And since Rodriguez is bringing in a different offensive system and philosophy, the added reps in spring and fall camp have been vital.

Maiava said the extra time has helped him build his confidence, even though he didn’t think he’d already be challenging for the spot as a redshirt freshman.

“(Ebbele) is good, he’s really good,” Maiava said. “He’s a big guy with a lot of experience and everything … It’s up to the person that brings the ‘A’ game every time. It’s pretty tough for me to compete against a really experienced O-lineman.”

However, Ebbele’s off-the-field issues are worth considering, especially his involvement in a campus-area brawl in March that ended in Ebbele being charged with assault and criminal trespassing.

All of the charges were eventually dropped, and Ebbele said the experience helped him improve his decision-making skills and ultimately allowed him to become more mature.

“He’s really matured and [is]starting to emerge as one of the younger leaders on the team and his presence … is felt every time he’s out there on the field with us,” Quinn said.

Ebbele’s dedication to the team is a sign of that maturity, as he said he never thought about transferring during the suspension.

“That’s one thing I wasn’t going to do,” Ebbele said. “I wasn’t going to quit. If it got bad and I knew I did something wrong [then maybe]. But I didn’t and I knew I was going stay here the whole time.”

And now that he seems to be fully healthy — Ebbele started during the “Beanie Bowl” scrimmage on Friday and participated with full contact — it looks like he’s returned to his form from last season.
“I’m back, I’m in rhythm,” Ebbele said. “I feel great and I’m making great strides and everything like that. And I feel real good.”

Ebbele said the challenge for his right tackle job helped motivate and drive him to improve. And even though Ebbele is back to full strength, and his start Friday during the scrimmage is a good indication he’ll be there come game day, Maiava still isn’t out of the picture yet.

“Lene is making good strides every day,” Ebbele said. “He’s maturing as a player and I see it.”

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Jonathan Fanene's release could be a precedent-setter for the NFL.

Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats
August, 26, 2012
Aug 26
Field Yates for

Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. If the Patriots do attempt to recover some or all of Jonathan Fanene's $3.85 million signing bonus, it will be watched closely by teams, agents and players across the NFL as a precedent-setting situation. Given that the NFL just instituted the category of "failure to disclose physical condition" -- which is what the Patriots designated Fanene when releasing him -- this is new ground.

2. One might say the Fanene situation highlights some of the main risk for teams in free agency, investing in players with whom they don't have a deep background (as compared to one they draft and develop before the player receives big up-front money). When the Patriots courted Fanene in free agency after missing out on Red Bryant, my understanding is that things moved along quickly even before the team officially met with him (Fanene was in Samoa at the time a financial agreement was struck). It makes one wonder if the Patriots' scouting fundamentals broke down before making their financial commitment; they might have liked Fanene as a player, but not dotted all their I's and crossed all their T's in terms of how he'd fit in their program. That's something Patriots coach Bill Belichick always stresses -- the program fit. So while the team seems to want Fanene to be held accountable for not fully disclosing all medical information, there is an element of accountability on the team side as well; they still thought enough of the player and person to give him a $3.85 million signing bonus.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Matt Asiata Taking advantage

No player did more with his opportunities on Friday night than Matt Asiata. If only he hadn't let the ball hit the ground.

Listed as a fullback, Asiata replaced Lex Hilliard at halfback in the second quarter, rushed for 48 yards on nine carries (5.3 average) with a long of 18 and scored a touchdown on one of his two catches for 6 yards.

But the performance was marred by Asiata's fumble at the Chargers' 3-yard line, stopping the best and final drive for the Vikings' starters midway through the third quarter.

"It sucks when you fumble, and I just felt like I let the whole line down, the whole starters down," said Asiata, the former Utah back in his second camp with the Vikings.

"Going down to the red zone and giving up the ball, I felt like I let my team down. It happens, but I've just got to get out of my head and keep playing football."

Asiata wasn't alone in his mistake. Hilliard fumbled on the latter of his two carries for 2 yards, and rookie Derrick Coleman -- one of the 15 players the Vikings waived on Saturday -- also fumbled in the red zone.

The Vikings still are unsettled at the third halfback spot behind Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. The other candidate, Jordan Todman, missed the first two preseason games with a sprained ankle and rushed twice for 7 yards on Friday.

"I think each of them turned that ball over (Friday). That wasn't so good," coach Leslie Frazier said. "They had some good runs between them, but it's discouraging when the ball is on the ground. We'll have to continue to evaluate that position and make a decision in which direction to go."

VIDEO: 49ers voice support for 'It Gets Better' movement

 By Josh Katzowitz | NFL Blogger
August 25, 2012 3:16 pm ET

As we move toward a world where being a publicly-known gay professional athlete is welcomed in the locker room -- we're not there yet, but there are signs that the day of acceptance is on its way -- some 49ers are voicing their support for LGBT teens.

In the video below, linebacker Ahmad Brooks, defensive tackles Ricky Jean Francois and Isaac Sopoaga, and safety Donte Whitner join the “It Gets Better” movement to help foster a sense of community for those gay teens who are troubled by bullying.

According to the SF Chronicle, the 49ers are the first pro football team to give their support to the project, following the lead of the San Francisco Giants, who did the same last year, and a host of other big-league baseball teams.

"We were happy to speak out against bullying as it affects people from all walks of life,” 49ers spokesman Bob Lange told the paper.

Why 49ers should expect big years from Davis, Iupati

August 22, 2012, 9:52 am SHARE THIS POST

Mike Iupati made the All-Rookie team after the 2010 season. Can he build on that in 2012?

SANTA CLARA -- Offensive linemen Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati are 2010 first-round draft picks who started every game since coming to the 49ers.

And, finally, this spring and summer, they had a regular offseason together.

For the first time, they were able to work on a daily basis with 49ers offensive line coaches Mike Solari and Tim Drevno -- as well as offensive coordinator Greg Roman -- for a two-month period before reporting to training camp four weeks ago.

It was a luxury they did not enjoy last year as the NFL offseason was non-existent due to the lockout.

"Last year, me and a couple other guys were at San Jose (State) training during the lockout," Iupati said. "All of us are here now. It's big. You get coaches coaching you with this and that. Last year, we were on our own, trying to coach ourselves, motivate ourselves."

As a possible result, Iupati and Davis did not maximize their second-year potential. They reported for their second seasons with even less pre-camp preparations than they had entering their rookie years because of the new coaching staff and new offensive system.

The 49ers invested a lot in adding Davis and Iupati. General manager Trent Baalke traded up two spots to select Davis with the No. 11 overall pick. Iupati was chosen No. 17 overall. The two linemen taken after Iupati were center Maurkice Pouncey (Pittsburgh, No. 18) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (Green Bay, No. 23).

Davis, a right tackle, showed enough promise in his second season that the 49ers never gave serious consideration to moving him to right guard, where they elected to place 6-foot-8 Alex Boone.

Davis can be a dominant run-blocker. The 49ers ranked seventh in the NFL last season with a 5.4 average on run plays to right tackle. Davis was responsible for 9.5 sacks, according to STATS, LLC.

Iupati was named to the NFL's All-Rookie team at left guard after the 2010 season but did not make the kind of noticeable improvements generally expected of a second-year player. He is also known as a mauler in the run game.

On Saturday against the Houston Texans, he was the only starting offensive lineman who allowed a hit on quarterback Alex Smith. Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith quickly beat Iupati with a swim move on a play that resulted in a roughing-the-passer penalty.

This season, the 49ers fully expect to receive full dividends from Davis and Iupati as first-round picks because of the large amounts of mental and physical preparation time they've finally been allowed.

Both were asked what were the biggest benefits they derived from their full offseasons at the 49ers' practice facility.

"Working on technique every day with the coaches, and responsibilities in pass protection and the details, and strength conditioning," Davis said. "I feel good. I feel ready to go."

Said Iupati, "Building the camaraderie with offensive line, especially, in communication, the plays, everything. I think we're better off now, especially the running game."

Marcus Mariota named Oregon Ducks starting quarterback

Aaron J. Fentress

24 Aug 12

In the past, the Oregon Ducks roster has affectionately been called a rotating “plug-and-play” depth chart. There’s an undeniably accurate sentiment in that assertion considering the history that the Oregon Ducks have had with replacement success.

When quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was suspended from the team, Darron Thomas replaced him and won two conference championships and earned a Rose Bowl victory. When running back LeGarrette Blount was suspended from the team, LaMichael James became his replacement. With James no longer on the team, fans have much confidence in Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas to replicate last season’s critical success.

With Darron Thomas no longer on the team, Mariota has emerged as a rising star in Oregon. As Bleacher Report lead writer Michael Felder observed, there’s a lot of shared similarities with the two quarterbacks.

“Chip Kelly, for the second time in three seasons, picked the bright future over the guy who many people expected to start come season's end the year before. First, it was Darron Thomas, now it is Marcus Mariota; and Mariota has some tremendous shoes to fill from a "first-year starter" standpoint.”

Regardless, the newly emerged confidence in Marcus Mariota is arguably unparalleled.

In a column by ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit released before Mariota was even announced as the starting quarterback, Mariota was listed as the single “most ahead of the curve” player in the nation.

(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Once he was announced as the starter, the compliments (including high praise from former Oregon star LaMichael James and editor-in-chief of the Heisman Pundit blog Chris Huston) continued to file in rapidly.

Training Tips from Troy Polamalu

August 21, 2012

Troy Polamalu, member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and LYFE Kitchen ambassador, reported to training camp at Saint Vincent College July 25 to prepare for the upcoming football season. On and off the field, Troy is well known for his thoughtful and passionate commitment to wellness in mind, body and soul. Troy gives us some insight on his training regimen and provides advice for those starting their own preseason sports camps and practices:
How do you prepare mentally and physically for training camp?
Playing professional sports, it’s important to eat healthy and take care of your body. In the off season, rest is really important to me. I also follow a unique training regime under the guidance of trainer Marv Marinovich. I focus on agility and coordination to build faster muscles opposed to the conventional way of gaining strength by lifting heavy weights.
What is your favorite post-practice meal or snack
After a training camp workout, my body is eager to replace nutrients and energy that are lost during the workout. It’s best to have a quick bite about 30 minutes after practice. I like to have yogurt and granola, the combination of carbs and protein helps me recover after a long and tiring workout.
Do you have any advice for kids and teens practicing and preparing for their sports seasons?
No skipping meals and drink lots of water. If you don’t eat right as an athlete, you’ll get tired and won’t be as sharp. It’s simple to drink sodas and sports drinks, but water is the most essential drink to put in your body.
What is your go-to food to give you energy?
Lots of fruits and veggies. Anything green, especially kale. I love to create this green juice shake made from kale, spinach, cucumber and wheat grass. The nutrients in the juice help me recover after a tough workout. The Kale Banana Smoothie at LYFE Kitchen is very similar to my recipe and is fantastic. You can get the recipe here:
What keeps you motivated during training camp and the regular football season?
My family is very important to me and the fans mean so much. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without their support.

Check out this video from Troy’s trip up to LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto, CA:

Browns Banking on Shawn Lauvao to Help Make Weeden and Richardson a Success

August 22, 2012 By Rick Grayshock

Shawn Lauvao and Mitchell Schwartz block for Brandon Weeden

“Bran-don Wee-den” clap, clap, clap clap clap “Bran-don Wee-den”.

Practice has just ended, and a group of school students are doing their best to encourage their favorite players to come over and sign autographs.

“Gr-eg Lit-tle” clap, clap, clap clap clap “Gr-eg Lit-tle”.

A few players are getting some extra work in. Alex Smith catches passes off the juggs gun. After one hits the ground, he is ribbed by James Dockery for failing to look the ball into his hands, the very thing he is supposed to be working on.

“Colt Mc-Co-oy” clap, clap, clap clap clap “Colt Mc-Co-oy”

In a small huddle off to the side of a practice field, the offensive line finishes up together and make their way back. Joe Thomas is assigned a spot to sign autographs on this day. Shawn Lauvao makes it back to the building without hearing a group of youngsters chant his name. His name isn’t easy to chant in four syllables, but doubtful that’s the real reason he wasn’t targeted by the boys.

He’s an offensive lineman, and not a high profile one at that. He’s a guard. But if the Browns offense, including Weeden, Little and Richardson are going to have success this season, Lauvao’s side of the line, the right side, will have to be much improved over last year.

A big part of that hoped for improvement, as has been detailed at length, is the addition of Mitchell Schwartz. Drafted in the second round, Schwartz has been penciled in at the starting RT spot since the draft. But don’t overlook Lauvao, who has done all he can to improve himself and prepare for the year to come.

Lauvao, along with fellow starting guard Jason Pinkston were two of four Browns offensive linemen to attend the LeCharles Bentley O-Line Academy in the off-season. For many high schoolers or college players, the camp may be a one time thing. But not for Shawn- “No, no it’s a continuous thing. LeCharles is a big mentor of mine. Anytime I can get any insight, any wisdom from him I’m all for it.”

For pro linemen, the academy’s purpose is as follows-

“As offensive linemen, career longevity is key to career success. This is a complete contradiction to the harsh world of a collision sport, as offensive lineman repetition is the way proper development takes place. Many great linemen have waited three to four years before developing into starters. It is often said that offensive linemen are like wine, they get better over time. This doesn’t mean that waiting around for “your turn” guarantees success. Unfortunately, the NFL doesn’t offer four-year scholarships with an option to “redshirt.” The objective is to get better fast, stay healthy and get paid. From the day you are drafted or added to an NFL roster, the clock on your career begins to tick.

The L. Bentley O-Line Academy is the place where you will have the opportunity to take your game and career to the next level. Our goal is to develop you into the healthiest, most functionally explosive, and technically sound player on the roster.”

But what do they do? Is it more drills like at camp? Is it conditioning?

“Everything is more functional from an offensive linemen standpoint.” says Lauvao. “Everything he pours into us is everything he’s gone through, everything he’s done is what helped him get to the level that he was at. Me, Jason (Pinkston), Shaw (Jarrod Shaw), Dom (Dominic Alford) we were all out there working together. So it builds camaraderie, but at the same time you get that competition, and that builds camaraderie too.”

Lauvao most certainly came into camp in the best shape of his life.

Jason Pinkston was a player that the Browns were concerned about over the off-season. Pat Shurmur talked about him in his post-practice press conference yesterday. He said his final words to Pinkston before they headed out for the off-season were “Get your body right.” Those words must have stuck with Pinkston through the workouts with Shawn and LeCharles. After the team reported, Pinkston tweeted how thankful he was to have passed his conditioning test. The first person to respond to his tweet? Lauvao. Reminding him that he barely passed.

This year things are a lot different for Shawn and Jason. Last season they were fighting for a roster spot, and a starting position. Pinkston was a rookie and Lauvao was fighting for his first starting spot as a second year player. They both started from week one (in no small part because of an injury to Eric Steinbach), and improved as the season progressed. So much so that the Browns were willing to release Steinbach from his contract, seemingly handing the starting jobs back to Pinkston and Lauvao.

With that experience in their pockets, you would think they would be a whole lot more comfortable heading into camp. Not so if you ask Lauvao-

“No, You’re never comfortable man, my mindset is I’m always trying to make the team. You always want to go out there and give a good product.”

Still, camp has to have a different feel or tone-

“The one thing is having an understanding of how you want to do things, whether it’s taking care of your body or whether it’s a scheme or just an overall understanding. There’s a lot more urgency to how you do things. There’s a purpose behind everything you do.”

Urgency. Purpose. A sense of focus perhaps to becoming a better player, a better teammate and building a career.

This year, the rookie starter is lining up beside him. So what does Lauvao think of Mitchell Schwartz? How does he think he will do?

“Mitch has a ton of upside, he’s another Cal guy like Alex so I call him rocket scientist. He’s a real smart guy. He knows the x’s and o’s of the offense. The one thing is just learning the technical stuff, and you just get that with experience.”

We had the opportunity to spend the draft with Shawn at our event with Two Bucks in Middleburg Heights. That night we watched Lauvao’s reaction to the Browns’ draft picks. He was very excited when the Browns selected Trent Richardson, but you didn’t have to be an expert in body language to see that Lauvao was stunned when the Browns used a first round selection on Brandon Weeden.

Now, after seeing Weeden up close for weeks, what does he think of the new signal caller?

“He’s got an arm. Brandon can definitely throw the ball. He’s an older cat, so he’s been around the blocks. The one thing with him, is he has that sense of urgency. You grow as a player with experience. I wish him the best for this season, and we’ll make sure we have everything together.”

Urgency. Focus. Making sure that the right side of the line has “everything together” to make the team a success.

If that comes to pass, school kids will continue to shout names of Cleveland’s quarterbacks and wide receivers. Including Weeden.

But likely not Shawn Lauvao.

It’s just a weird name to chant in four syllables.

Recruiting: Michigan State sitting strong with several top recruits August 23, 2012 By Matt Dorsey

Norwalk (Calif.) Cerritos Community College defensive tackle Kyle Peko

The 6-4, 295-pound Peko is the cousin of former Spartan standouts Situpe and Domata Peko. Like his cousins, Peko is coming out of the junior college ranks as one of the top recruits in the nation. Peko has an offer list that includes MSU, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Kansas, Kansas State, Pittsburgh and Utah. Current MSU offensive tackle Fou Fonoti is friends with Peko and they keep in touch frequently. Peko told Brian Gates of just where a couple of "State" schools rank on his list.

"I am pretty interested in in Kansas State," he said. "They are pretty high on my list. Coach Mo Latimore is calling me and sending me letters. My favorite right now is Michigan State. I had two cousins play there and I think I can go there and play right away."

Peko is schedule to graduate in January. He will be able to enroll into a university after that and participate in spring practice.

Jaguars Depth Chart: Tyson Alualu Back In The Lineup

by Kevin Jeffers

Read More: Tyson Alualu (DT - JAC), D'Anthony Smith (DT - JAC), Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars

Defensive tackle Tyson Alualu's journey back to the field from offseason knee surgery culminated in joining the Jacksonville Jaguars' starting lineup in Thursday night's 48-17 preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens, writes the Florida Times-Union.

Alualu has been brought along slowly, but he was apparently good to go Thursday. He replaced D'Anthony Smith, who filled in on the first team during Alualu's recovery. Alualu played two series before being replaced by Smith.

C.J. Mosley's good camp has kept him starting at the other tackle position over Terrance Knighton, who came in for the second series. Knighton got a third-down sack in the red zone that forced Baltimore to settle for a field goal.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mike Fetters

Personal Life:

Mike Fetters (born December 19, 1964, Van Nuys, California) is a former Major League Baseball relief pitcher who had a sixteen year career from 1989 to 2004. Although Fetters was born in Van Nuys, California, Fetters grew up in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Fetters is a graduate of Iolani School, where he played baseball in the early 1980s, and was an all-state performer.

Fetters is married to Tanya and have four children together. Fetters is currently a Special Assistant to the General Manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks.


Fetters attended Pepperdine University, and during that time he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 22nd round of the 1983 MLB Draft. Fetters postponed his professional career to focus on attending Pepperdine University.

Fetters was the first player from Pepperdine University to play for the USA Baseball National team, as part of the All-Star squad that that competed in Venezuela for the America’s Cup in October, 1985.

Professional Career:

On June 18, 1986, Fetters was drafted by the Angels in the first round, 27th overall in the MLB 1986 Draft. Fetters played for eight teams during his sixteen year career with the Angels, Brewers, Athletics, Orioles, Dodgers, Pirates, Twins and Diamondbacks.

His best season is said to be in 1996, where he recorded 32 saves for the Brewers, which was the fifth-most in the American League that year. He made the post season in 2002 with Arizona after the Diamondbacks won the National League West, and was part of a Twins team that won the 2003 American League Central, though Fetters didn’t pitch much that season due to injury.

Highlights and Awards:
Holds several records with Pepperdine University still unbroken
Inducted in the Pepperdine University Department of Athletics 2011 Hall of Fame

Wally Rank

Personal Life:

Wally Rank (born March 01, 1958, Ford Ord, California) is a former professional NBA Basketball player and is married to Erin Garrity Rank. He was the founder of Youth Outreach United (Y.O.U), which sponsored the South Pacific Games in Carson, California for many years.

For 15 years, Rank worked for the Los Angeles County Office of Education from 1991-2006, and is currently the CEO of Top Rank Properties, Seal Beach, California. He is associated with groups such as – Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, National Pacific Islander Education Network and California Association of Realtors.


A 6’6″ guard-forward, Rank played college basketball for San José State University from 1977 to 1980. He scored 1,432 points in his college career and set a school record for points in a game when he tallied 40 against California State University, Sacramento on January 3, 1980.

Professional Career:

Rank was drafted by the San Diego Clippers in the 5th Round and 99th overall of the 1980 NBA Draft. He played 25 games for the San Diego (now known as Los Angeles) Clippers during the 1980-1981 NBA season, scoring 55 points. In that year, he played alongside Joe ‘Jelly-Bean’ Bryant (L.A Laker – Kobe Bryant’s father), before spending a short period with the L.A Lakers, and then to Sacramora Rimini in Italy.

Rank later played for the Western Samoa National Basketball team at the 1993 Oceania Championship.

Highlights and Awards:
First Samoan and and Pacific Islander to play in the NBA
Still maintains several records for college basketball at San José State University
Link to this post!

Isaac Sopoaga Leads By Example

Posted by Jacob Most on August 20, 2012 – 5:55 PM

Isaac Sopoaga often uses his Samoan heritage to bring a unique energy into the 49ers locker room.

Known as one of the team’s emotional leaders for his enigmatic personality, Sopoaga showed that liveliness to the media during a press conference on Monday.

Sopoaga entered the media tent at 49ers headquarters and stepped up to the podium with headphones covering his ears. The entrance puzzled most of the media members in the attendance until finally a reporter asked the nose tackle what he was listening to.

Sopoaga ran with it to start by pretending he couldn’t hear the question, which drew a loud laugh from the media present before he finally responded that he was listening to a musical genre not likely to make the team’s pre-game playlist anytime soon.

“I love my Samoan church music,” the 6-foot-2, 330-pounder said. “The words are strengthening. They are some powerful wise words.”

The upbeat tunes seem to be keeping the Samoan in a positive frame of mind through more than three weeks of training camp.

His positive outlook could also be attributed to the physical condition Sopoaga has entered the 2012 season in.

Sopoaga’s off-season training program is not the most orthodox.

Each April, Sopoaga returns to his home of American Samoa to compete in an intense and physically taxing rowing race.

Sopoaga represents his village of Fagasa in the annual Fautasi Race alongside his father Tupuola Laniselota, the boat captain. A Fautasi race consists of 40 rowers in long fiberglass boats rowing seven miles offshore. The rowers then set themselves at a buoyed start point before racing back into Pago Pago Harbor.

“It is really tough what we do back home in Samoa,” Sopoaga said. “When I leave here to go to Samoa, I don’t relax. Joining in those activities is like my extra offseason while I am away from our own facility. I do it so I can prepare myself for training camp and then the season.”

“Rowing is not easy. You have to row four miles in the morning and then you row eight miles out, eight miles in four times . That is about 40-plus miles under three hours. Then you have to run two miles home and you only rest for four hours and then you do the same thing. It is like double days.”

The offseason cross training has helped Sopoaga develop into a pivotal members of the 49ers defense.

At nose tackle in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 scheme, Sopoaga commands double teams, which allow defensive ends and outside linebackers to rush the passer and gobble up outside runs.

Sopoaga set a career-high with 75 tackles, while tying a career-high with 1.5 sacks in 2010. After earning the starting spot for all 16 games in 2012, Sopoaga backed up his previous season’s performance with 68 tackles in 2011.

He also saw action at fullback the past two years and notably caught his first career NFL pass from Alex Smith last season. The completion went for 18-yards on a pivotal third-and-three, which set up a David Akers 26-yard field to clinch a win 20-10 over Cleveland in Week Eight.

Sopoaga’s talents on both sides of the ball could serve as he helps advise defensive end Demarcus Dobbs, who is making waves this training camp by seeing time at tight end.

“Dobbs is a professional athlete,” Sopoaga said. “He knows what he is doing on offense and also on defense. There are talented guys and I am pretty sure what Dobbs knows exactly what he is doing when he is on the field.”

The Samoan music seemed to really be working to lift Sopoaga’s mood as he remained complementary of all his teammates throughout his time with the media.

Sopoaga took time to say good things about all his team mates on offense especially speedy rookies like A.J. Jenkins and Chris Owusu.

The big man’s Samoan flair is a constant presence around the 49ers, and his mood on this day was especially light, perhaps as a result of the music he was listening to.

“It is a blessing,” Sopoaga said. “I don’t know where this lighting strike mindset came from. I guess listening to my Samoan church music works. The words are really down to earth.”

Oregon Ducks Football: Analyzing Pros and Cons of Marcus Mariota Starting at QB

By Bryan Kalbrosky (Featured Columnist) on August 20, 2012

Photo via

After a tantalizing spring game at Autzen Stadium, red-shirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota has yet to learn if he will start for the Oregon Ducks.

Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota vs. Bryan Bennett has become the biggest question of the season for the 2012 Oregon Ducks football team. On September 2, Oregon fans will not only be aware which quarterback Chip Kelly gave the starting job to, but fans will also know exactly how that quarterback looked against Arkansas State (including pocket poise, scrambling ability, confidence and accuracy) in the Autzen Stadium home opener.

Yet while that game against Arkansas State does not feel terribly far away, fans all over the world still have no idea which direction head coach Chip Kelly appears to be leaning.

"There aren't many differences from a physical standpoint," said Kelly. "It's just now who picks it up, who can move the group the best, is going to be what the determination is based on when we get back to camp next fall."

Of course, Oregon fans have already seen how 20-year-old Bryan Bennett performs on the field. He played in eight games for Oregon last season, threw six TD’s and no interceptions, had strong accuracy (25-for-46), ran for 8.7 yards per carry with a 49-yard rush against Colorado and even completed a pass on an option play to Darron Thomas in the Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.

Even though Bennett is the returning candidate who received playing time with Darron Thomas under Chip Kelly last season, it was 19-year-old Marcus Mariota who seems to have won over the Oregon Ducks fans with his stellar spring play.

While some still may prefer Bennett, Oregon fans have yet to learn the legitimacy of Marcus Mariota.

The Situation

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

RECAP: With Darron Thomas leaving early, red-shirt freshman Marcus Mariota and red-shirt sophomore Bryan Bennett compete for the starting job at the University of Oregon.

Dan Fouts. Kellen Clemens. Dennis Dixon. Joey Harrington. These are some of the most prestigious names to play quarterback for the Oregon Ducks.

In the absence of Darron Thomas, it's time for a new name to arise and earn the honor of the starting role at Oregon. While Oregon Ducks wide receiver Rashaan Vaugn has made it clear that neither has an advantage even "by an inch," the two head into the final weeks before the regular season without much of an indication as to which quarterback will reign in the season as the starting quarterback in Eugene.

While fans may already know about Bryan Bennett from his play last season, analyzing the pros and cons of Mariota's impending career are a necessary next step for Oregon fans everywhere.


Photo via The Register Guard

PROS: Marcus Mariota is sure to impress with his cool composure and natural talent as he enters his red-shirt freshman season.

In the absence of Darron Thomas and LaMichael James, Mariota provides an immediate rejuvenation of energy and character.

For a new generation of the Oregon Ducks, fans may remember the post-LaMichael James Era as one defined by Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas on offense. While the talent is undeniable, Mariota brings admirable leadership capabilities to a team in search for a more solidified character and identity in the upcoming year.

“Last year I came in just trying to figure out where I fit in, and if this was the right decision in my life,” said Mariota. “Now I have to step up and be a leader.”

After a fantastic write-up in the Oregon Daily Emerald that chronicled his interest in leading by example rather than word, his play in the spring game certainly solidified that exact sentiment.

With 202 yards in the air (18-of-26 and 1 TD) and 99 on the ground (2 TDs including an 82-yard run on a fake), Mariota beat Bennett’s squad by a total of 41-14.

This was just a microcosm of what his talent had produced in his senior year in Honolulu, Hawaii. For his football team, he accumulated 2,597 yards in the air (32 TD’s and only five interceptions) and 455 yards on the ground (seven TD’s) before graduating and heading up to Oregon. He attended Saint Louis High School, the same high school as former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, and the most represented high school in the nation on the Oregon Ducks roster.

It was easy for Mariota to join a recruiting class that had already featured names like De’Anthony Thomas and Colt Lyerla. And from the time Chip Kelly first laid eyes on Mariota, he had become infatuated.

“He’s the perfect fit for what we do offensively,” said Kelly on signing day of Mariota, almost an HGI clone of what the Oregon Ducks coach looks for in a quarterback talent level.

Even Bryan Bennett is impressed with Mariota.

"He throws a good ball, he's fast and he's a smart quarterback, just like all the quarterbacks on our team," said Bennett. "Marcus is a good all-around player. It's going to be fun."

At the end of the day, Mariota is a very well-liked individual on the team with an identity central to that of the Eugene atmosphere. He is expected to shine if the opportunity were given to him.

“They’re definitely two different people,” said wide receiver Daryle Hawkins. “Marcus definitely has that laid-back culture that’s identified with being Hawaiian. Bryan is Bryan.”

Mariota has incredible speed and pocket presence, which more than enough compensates for the more laser-like arm of Bryan Bennett.

Perhaps another perk is that (as Addicted To Quack points out) Mariota seems much more open to a two-quarterback system much like the one that LSU used to win the BCS National Championship in 2007 than Bryan Bennett is.

Mariota, a diligent trainer, is marvelously ready for whatever role he is put into. His obvious wish is to earn the starting role, and his demeanor heading into the season exactly fits that mold.

Regardless of experience, Mariota may be able to replicate the 2010 decision of Chip Kelly, who gave the starting job to sophomore Darron Thomas rather than senior Nate Costa. Thomas went on to go 24-3 as a starter with two Pac-12 championships and the first Rose Bowl victory for Oregon since 1917.

“You see the older guys working hard, and it pushes you to do better,” said Mariota. “If it so happens that I will play — or Bryan will play — I want to be ready, from a mental standpoint as well as physical.”


Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

CONS: Marcus Mariota may be great, but is he ready for the ultimate test in the upcoming season without ever taking a snap at the college level?

Mariota is an incredible athlete with composure and confidence well beyond his youth.

Yet there’s still something missing when it comes to entrusting him with the starting role this season.

Earlier this offseason, one of my favorite Oregon writers, Dale Newton, made a very interesting observation on his blog entry detailing the upcoming quarterback controversy brewing in Eugene.

“Somewhere during the year, the Ducks might miss [Darron Thomas’s] toughness, leadership and experience,” writes Newton. “It'd be nice to enter the L.A. Coliseum with a quarterback who'd won there before, or faced that big of a game, national TV, ESPN, top five matchup, capacity crowd. It's a different kind of pressure, and there's no way to be sure how a young quarterback will handle it until he faces it for the first time.”

Chip Kelly expressed a similar thought.

"I have a lot of faith in both those guys' abilities,'' Kelly told The Oregonian. "Sam Rutigliano, the longtime NFL coach of the Cleveland Browns use to say, `It's like a teabag, you don't know what you've got until you put it in hot water.' I anticipate them being very successful, but we'll see. That's obviously a big question for all of us.''

We don’t know how Bryan Bennett will be in hot water either. After all, it wasn’t Bennett executing the final plays of the game. With Bennett, however, he would be able to feel as if he’d been there before.

Mariota may get there. But he’s young and we simply don’t know. At this point in his career, Bennett has simply had more experience and exposure. After a disappointing performance in the spring game, Bennett impressed many at the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana in July.

“Bennett has a lot of tools to work with and I’m anxious to see how the position battle shakes out in Eugene,” said analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who was also impressed with how ahead of everyone else Bennett was in running drills. Bennett has reportedly been very sharp through out training.

In his third training camp as an Oregon Duck, the red-shirt sophomore hopes to up his confidence level to well past where it was when he faced off against Marcus Mariota in the spring game. He clearly has the talent, and his experience will assuredly do just that so long as he can keep his head on straight.

PREDICTION: Bryan Bennett takes the first snap of the season, but Mariota sees many touches and go on to stardom in Oregon.

At the end of the day, I think Bryan Bennett gets the job.

Mariota is the younger and less seasoned of the two, and the spring game was the perfect opportunity for Bennett to realize that there is indeed a player on his tail even after the departure of Darron Thomas. These summer workouts were a way to ignite a fire for Bennett, and the person who has explained that most eloquently in my opinion was (of all people) Marcus Mariota himself.

“We've talked and it's not a controversy for us," said Mariota. "It's more of a way for each of us to get better. People might bring up what they want, but we're just taking it day by day. We're both good players. No matter what happens we know that in the end, the guy who is playing, the other guy will root for him."

It’s a brilliant strategy for the Oregon Ducks. No matter what they decide, by not announcing a quarterback, it simply motivates both individuals to play at their best possible potential.

I wouldn’t worry much if I were Mariota. As they each get better, it is in my most genuine belief that they will both receive extreme amounts of playing time in this upcoming season, perhaps occasionally even at the same time.

"It's a guideline, not a rule," said Kelly of a two-quarterback system. "I've just never been anywhere where we've had two kids that are equal so that two both deserve it. Someone has emerged that has become that guy."

Because Oregon has a closed practice, we still have no idea who has become “that guy” in Eugene this offseason. But the excess talent is certainly not a bad thing for the Oregon Ducks team, who will find a way to maximize all potential needed for success.

"We're trying to get the best product for Oregon football," said Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. "It's not Bryan vs. Marcus. It's not Romney-Obama. It's, let's have the best product on the field, and they did a good job of helping each other today."

Mariota has a world of potential as a football player and could go down as one of the most exceptional Oregon Ducks to ever play quarterback for the team by the time his tenure with the team is completed.

Big East Player to Watch: Peyton Siva (Louisville) Published: 9 hours ago

by Ari Kramer

Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

Mesmerizing yet erratic. Extremely talented yet out of control. And in a nutshell you have Louisville’s Peyton Siva.

Siva has the ability to take over games, but sometimes he does too much, leading to turnovers and mistakes that kill his team. He’ll come close to a triple-double against Notre Dame—13, 9 and 8—but he’ll also submit a four-point, six-turnover dud against Syracuse in the same week.

Every year, the consensus is that Siva will be better, but in reality, he slipped as a junior. He turned the ball over more frequently and his shooting percentages from the floor and long range dipped.

Sometimes he strays from what he does best—getting into the lane—and, instead, settles for mid-range jumpers and threes.

Especially in a backcourt with Russ Smith, Siva will need to play smarter basketball as a senior—he cannot average 3.4 turnovers per game like he did last year.

Siva no longer has Kyle Kuric or Chris Smith on the wing, but a healthy Wayne Blackshear coupled with a more experienced Chane Behanan gives the senior two reliable—possibly even more reliable—targets for his passes.

Now, all of the above regards Siva on offense. Defensively he is solid, averaging 1.7 steals as a junior. But sometimes his competitiveness makes him overeager and results in foolish fouls, which, combined with his proclivity for charging on offense, frequently lands him in foul trouble. Siva finished 15 games with four or more fouls in 2011-12.

To Siva’s credit, he carried Louisville through the Big East tournament, earning Most Outstanding Player honors as a result, and played well in the NCAA Tournament. But even though he was instrumental in the Final Four run, Siva still fouled out twice, averaged three turnovers per game and shot under 37 percent three times.

The overarching theme is that Siva won’t maximize his productivity unless he plays smarter on both ends. If he can do that, he has the talent to be one of the conference’s best players.

Follow Ari Kramer on Twitter for more on the Big East and college basketball.

Here are the rest of the Big East Player to Watch pieces to date: Brandon Triche, Chane Behanan

His message is loud and clear

By Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or August 18, 2012 11:39PM

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o answers a question during NCAA college football media day, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Article Extras

SOUTH BEND — Manti Te’o tried. Really, he did. Notre Dame’s All-America linebacker spent parts of last season jumping up and down in the huddle, smacking helmets, yelling in faces and grabbing facemasks.

No matter how forced it felt — and no matter how awkward it looked — he tried, because, well, that’s what leaders on football teams do.

“I tried to be all rah-rah,” Te’o said, grimacing at the very thought of it. “I’m just not that type of dude.”

Turns out, he doesn’t have to be. Turns out, when you’re one of the top linebackers in the country, your teammates will follow you. Turns out, when you’re one of the hardest-working guys on the team, your teammates will emulate you. Turns out, when you’re the type of dude that turns down a shot to be a first-round NFL draft pick for one last year in college, your teammates will believe in you.

And it turns out, when you don’t say much, your words carry that much more weight.

“I was out there being in everyone’s face, and guys don’t respect that,” Te’o said. “They could see right through it. I want my teammates to understand that when No. 5 says something to you, that means it’s very important, because he doesn’t talk a lot. If I’m saying something to you, it’s going to help you.”

Irish coach Brian Kelly has seen the difference.

“Without question, it’s now at a point where he is imposing his own set of standards on others,” Kelly said. “He holds his teammates to a high level, and as a coach, that’s a pretty good feeling.”

Te’o said he got his “speak softly and carry a big stick” mentality from his father, Brian.

“I think it’s a Polynesian thing,” the native of Hawaii said. “We’re very quiet people. We’re hard working, but we’re very quiet. My dad is one of the best leaders I’ve seen. People follow him, people listen to him. When he speaks, everyone listens. I didn’t want to be one of those guys that, when I speak, everyone just rolls their eyes and says, ‘Oh, it’s the same old Manti, same old things.’ When I speak, it’s different. When I speak, you’ll feel it.”

Better to hear from him than get hit by him, because you’ll feel that for a lot longer. Te’o, one of the most highly touted defensive recruits in Notre Dame history, has lived up to the hype. He’s played in every game since joining the program, and has started the last 35. He’s eighth all-time in tackles, was named to six All-America teams last year, and was a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker, last year. This year, he’s a consensus first-team preseason All-American and the unquestioned — if unassuming — leader of the defense.

But to hear Te’o tell it, it’s not nearly enough.

“He has unfinished business as it relates to this football team,” Kelly said.

A pedestrian 22-16 career record at Notre Dame and a 1-1 record in bowl games (neither of them BCS bowls) helped fuel Te’o’s wrenching offseason decision to spurn the NFL and risk millions of dollars for a chance to carve a greater legacy in South Bend — and to spend one last year with his “family” at Notre Dame.

It also added fire to his grueling offseason workouts, which he said cut about 15 pounds off his 255-pound frame, leaving him quicker and more powerful than ever.

His goals are simple, and lofty: To go down as “one of the best” to ever don a golden helmet, to lead Notre Dame back to national prominence, and to “cherish the moment.”

The NFL can wait.

“Me coming back wasn’t to prove how I gave everything up, it was to show how special this place is,” Te’o said.

“No second-guessing. None. I knew if I prepared myself both physically and spiritually, I’ll be fine. Whatever happens, happens. I told my parents, after my last home game, against Wake Forest, whether I come out in pads or on crutches, it’ll be worth it.”

That, Te’o hopes — as much as the relentless dedication to workouts, to film study, and to delivering bone-rattling hits — will speak louder than any generic, ear-splitting pregame pep talk ever could.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

49ers sign LB Alama-Francis

August 15, 2012, 4:31 pm SHARE THIS POST

Ikaika Alama-Francis has 24 tackles and one sack in 35 NFL games.

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers on Wednesday signed Ikaika Alama-Francis, a five-year veteran, to help a depleted group of linebackers.

The 49ers waived tight end Gijon Robinson, whom the club signed on Monday, to make room for Alama-Francis.

Alama-Francis, listed at 6-foot-5, 290 pounds, worked out for the 49ers early Wednesday afternoon. He was originally a second-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 2007. He appeared in just 19 games with the Lions, making two starts, before he was released. He has 47 tackles and one sack in 35 career games, including 16 games with the Miami Dolphins over the past three seasons.

Neither of the 49ers' starting outside linebackers has practiced this week. Aldon Smith is expected to be out of action for more than a week with a right hip bruise. Ahmad Brooks missed practices Monday and Tuesday with "general soreness," according to a source.

Draft picks Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson, both outside linebackers, are out of action. Fleming is likely out for the season after undergoing offseason surgery to repair a torn ACL. Johnson is also battling a knee problem that kept him out Friday's exhibition opener and the past three practices.

OSU football: American Samoan players are a long, long, long, long, long way from home

Oregon State freshmen Rommel Mageo, left, and Noke Tago are attending school 5,000 miles from their home in Pago Pago, American Samoa. (Andy Cripe | Corvallis Gazette-Times)

6 hours ago • By KEVIN HAMPTON, Corvallis Gazette-Times
(0) Comments

Noke Tago’s first airplane ride was a long one.

A flight between American Samoa and the United States is roughly 15 hours.

If you’re lucky.

Tago said he flew eight hours to Hawaii, waited there for another eight hours and then made the five-hour trip to Oregon.

Tago and Oregon State teammate Rommel Mageo, also from Pago Pago, American Samoa, are both in Corvallis practicing with the Beavers’ football team.

It’s their first time away from home. And home is 5,000 miles away.

“Living a different life, it’s good for me because this is my first time I leave my parents and I stay away from my family,” Tago said. “So the first week I was homesick a lot and I missed my family.”

Mageo’s brother, Natanu, played for North Carolina State two years ago and had the benefit of talking to him before making the move.

“My brother played at N.C. State, so it was a big thing for me,” Mageo said. “He helped me out with a lot of things and he told me all about camp and everything.”

Moving halfway across the world is a big decision.

For Tago and Mageo, it’s a change that they were willing to make.

Few in American Samoa get a chance at college. Or more.

Career prospects are slim at home.

Football is their opportunity.

The American Samoa game

Football was introduced to American Samoa, an unincorporated territory of the U.S., in the 1960s.

While rugby is huge throughout Polynesia, including neighboring Independent State of Samoa, football stuck in American Samoa with the help of television.

The physical nature of the game turned out to be a natural attraction.

“In American Samoa, American football is big,” OSU defensive line coach Joe Seumalo said. “That’s their only form of entertainment.

“They’re raw at the game but they understand the physicalness of it and they love it. They’re no different than a lot of kids over here in the U.S.”

Until Pop Warner started up recently, most of the organized football was played at the high school level.

That means that most players from American Samoa who were good enough to come to the U.S. and play have been raw.

Mageo, a linebacker for OSU, has been playing the sport for five years.

He started in eighth grade.

“It wasn’t really around because we didn’t have youth football. It was only high school, so when you’re little, all you look up to is high school football,” Mageo said. “So when I was in eighth grade I really wanted to play football so I tried out.”

Tago played rugby when he was younger.

A defensive tackle for the Beavers, he’s now 6-foot-1, 290-pounds.

When he arrived in high school the football coaches took one look at him and convinced him to play.

“My freshman year I didn’t practice the whole summer,” he said. “I just come to school and register and the coaches wanted me because they saw me and I’m big. They wanted me to play for them.

“I had more confidence in myself because I played rugby.”

Seumalo said the rules governing football in American Samoa are limited, so the players are able to practice and play year-round.

The players are different as well.

Size is not lacking among the young men of American Samoa.

It’s easy to find linemen and linebackers.

“Football there is different from here,” Mageo said. “There it’s mostly about strength. It’s not really about speed, but everybody’s strong out there.”

The players condition constantly but weight training isn’t common.

Tago said he did a lot of work cutting trees and grass and did push-ups every night before bed.

“We have to do our chores. Every day we do our plantation, grow taro,” Tago said. “That’s where we get our muscle built.”

The recruiting game

Attracted by the size and potential, college coaches have looked for Samoan players for some time now.

Many players of Samoan descent, such as Troy Polamalu, Marques Tuiasosopo and the late Junior Seau, have made the climb to the NFL.

The University of Hawaii has been stocking its roster with Samoan players for years.

Access to the athletes who were already living in Hawaii or on the mainland was simple. Getting to those in American Samoa is a different story.

Film has often been used to evaluate the players.

Recruiting trips to American Samoa have always been tough for college coaches.

“Everyone knows about American Samoa, it’s just that you have flights that are limited, so if you go there, expect to stay there for a couple days because the next flight is three or four days later,” Seumalo said. “And in Samoa, you could probably do it one day, you could do all your reruiting in one day there. But with NCAA rules, these are the dates you can go out and if you go there, you kind of lose a couple days by being out there.

“We just have to be smart in how we do it.”

While there is a good group of American Samoan players who made the trip to the U.S. to play football this fall as freshmen, most of them went to junior colleges.

Four received full-ride scholarships from Division I teams.

Tago and Mageo were two. The other two are Robert Barber and Destiny Vaeao of Washington State.

“Coming here, it’s a big deal, so it was a big thing on the island,” Mageo said. “It was all over the newspaper and everywhere.”

OSU can provide the education and the base for a future career.

“It’s a way for us to get in and get some of those kids and develop those kids,” Seumalo said. “Because you can count the amount the kids that have grown up in the islands, whether it be Samoa or Tonga, that have made it here and played the game of football.”

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Maiava moving up for Cleveland Browns

Bald-Headed Truth
August 15, 2012 - Robert Collias
Read comments | Post a comment
Baldwin grad Kaluka Maiava, the only MIL football player ever to be drafted by an NFL team, is in position to see a lot of playing time for the Cleveland Browns this season and he appears ready to take advantage of it.

Fellow linebacker Scott Fujita is suspended for the first three games of the season for his role in the Saints' bounty program and Maiava was tabbed as the starter in Fujita's spot. Browns' linebacking depth has been further hampered by a season-ending injury to starter Chris Gocong earlier this month in training camp.

Maiava missed 14 games himself in 2010 due to an injury.

In this story on the Browns website, Maiava said, “No one likes to sit on the bench. When your number’s called, you’ve got to go in there and produce for the team, get wins. This is the best I’ve felt since (the injury). It felt good running around. I’ve got the plays, a better understanding of the playbook and we’ve got good competition in the linebacking group and I’m looking forward to the season.”

This story also says Maiava now figures prominently into the Browns' plans.

In this blog, it says Maiava is a sure starter for the first three games while Fujita sits out and could still be in the starting mix even when Fujita returns. Scroll down to the bottom of this link, that is where the Maiava stuff is.

According to the depth chart on the team's website, Maiava is the starter at weakside linebacker and former Baldwin teammate JoJo Dickson is fourth string at the same position.

SDSU's Samoan players felt strong brotherhood with Seau

Star linebacker had tremendous influence on Oceanside products

It was the opportunity of a lifetime and Rene Siluano knew it.

How many times does an eighth-grader playing Pop Warner football get to work out with an NFL icon?

Try almost never, which is why Siluano got up at the ungodly hour of 3:30 a.m. to train at a 24-Hour Fitness Center in Oceanside with his uncle, Mike Taele, and his famous friend, Junior Seau. The kid even had a cast on his arm at the time, but he didn’t care.

Now a junior safety at San Diego State, Siluano soon would be playing football at Oceanside High School, and there was no bigger legend on campus than Seau, the Pirates’ football and basketball star who rose to NFL stardom with the Chargers and played in Super Bowls for San Diego and New England.

They would work sometimes for three hours in the gym, and Siluano experienced the powerful personality and the seemingly endless passion of Seau, who was playing for the Miami Dolphins at the time.

“He was a good motivator and a great man,” Siluano recalled after a recent Aztecs fall practice. “I learned a lot from him about work ethic and pushing through the pain … the things that help you in football, and in life as well.

“He just taught me how to have that drive. He knew I was a small person. He said, ‘Don’t let nobody put you down. You’ve got a hard work ethic.’ I’ll never forget when he told me that. That’s when I kicked it into fifth gear and never stopped.”

Like the rest of the tight-knit Samoan community in Oceanside, as well as the rest of the country, Siluano was shocked and saddened when the 43-year-old Seau took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest on May 2.

Siluano was in school at the time, so he couldn’t attend any of the public gatherings honoring Seau, but on the Oceanside strand of beach where Seau lived, Siluano went on his own one day and stood in the water to remember the man.

“It was just a sad time,” Siluano said. “He’s a community idol and a role model who kids wanted to be like.”

Seau played his college football at USC, but right now his legacy is being felt more at San Diego State than any other college in the country. There are five former Oceanside High players on the Aztecs roster, and Seau’s nephew, Micah Seau, is a true freshman linebacker who lived in Spring Valley and played at Bishop’s.

It may not be long before another Seau is blowing past blockers to make tackles at Qualcomm Stadium.

When Junior Seau died, the Aztecs players reached out to support Micah, whom they had come to know during spring practices. Because Micah Seau is a freshman, Aztecs head coach Rocky Long will not allow him to speak to the media.

Said Siluano, “From looking from the outside, it looks like he’s handling it well. You never know how someone is truly feeling. But all we can do is be supportive of him and give him a helping hand when he needs it. I’ll always be there for him.

Playing alongside Siluano at SDSU is the Oceanside friend he has known since Pop Warner. Sophomore middle linebacker Jake Fely is one of the few returning starters on San Diego State’s defense, and though he didn’t personally know Junior Seau, the influence was inescapable. Fely has loved being a linebacker for as long as he can remember.

“I watched a game when he played against the Chiefs at home,” Fely recalled. “He hit somebody pretty good and his helmet came off. It was an eye-opener. That was Junior Seau.”

Fely and Siluano figure to be on the field the same time a lot during the upcoming season. Each is generously listed at 5-feet-10, and each is considered undersized for his position. But they make up for it with speed, high energy and ferocity.

When bodies in black jerseys are flying around on the field, distinguishing between the two can be a challenge. Each has long, black hair that flows from their helmets when they run. In that, they are more influenced by Troy Polamalu than Seau. Fely said he hasn’t cut his hair significantly since he was 6 years old; Siluano started growing his long in the eighth grade.

“I’m going to grow it until my mom says to cut it or a job requires it,” Siluano said with a smile.

The hair is one more representation of their islander culture, where tradition and family are paramount. That sense of togetherness likely motivated a famous linebacker to share his time with a kid he barely knew.

“I love my community. I love where I come from,” Siluano said. “In a small culture, family ties are everything. Everybody loves their family, but there’s an X-factor (for Samoans). There’s an extra tie to your family that makes the bond stronger, a brotherhood that cannot be broken.”

Te'o determined to go out winner for Irish

RICK GANO - AP Sports Writer (AP)
Posted August 16, 2012 at 4:38 p.m., updated August 16, 2012 at 6:05 p.m.

FILE - A Sept. 20, 2011 file photo, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o follows the action during an NCAA college football game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o answers a question during NCAA college football media day, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Manti Te'o's lighter, quicker and, best of all for Notre Dame, he's back for a senior season and ready to leave his mark as one of the school's greatest linebackers.

"Since it's my senior I want to do this. I want to win to make sure Notre Dame is back up there," Te'o said Thursday during the school's football media day.

"This is my only time to actually have control over that. Once I leave, I don't have. While I'm in that locker room and on that field, I have good control of what is going on."

Te'o enters the season as the No. 8 tackler in school history with 324. He made 128 last season and 133 as a sophomore, combining speed, instinct and a determined approach to keep improving.

"He's a big-bodied guy. He's fast. He's got real good initial quickness. He's got an instinctual and intangible nose for the ball," Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco says.

"He's got a spectacular skill set and the intangible blue-collar mentality, so it's a unique combination."

Te'o had to make a tough decision on his future and it came last December — stay in school and go pro? He discussed it with his parents, saying he didn't want to miss out on a final season in South Bend.

"I know that if I prepare myself, both mentally and physically, and spiritually, I'll be fine and whatever happens, happens. I told my parents, if I come out my senior game, my last game of the season against Wake Forest, whether I come out in pads or on crutches, it will be worth it," he said earlier.

It was the second time he'd chosen to remain with the Irish. After his freshman year, he decided to forgo a Mormon mission and return to school.

"It was very difficult in totally different ways," he said. "Going on my mission was an experience like no other. It was something to help me grow as a person. Leaving for the NFL would help my family financially, so there were different situations, but I used the same tools to make those decisions — I prayed about it and talked to my family about it and weighed the pros and cons of each.

"I think I've made the right decision for me and my family."

Te'o, who is listed at 6-2, 255, certainly wants to play in the NFL next year and part of the reason for losing 15 pounds was to keep himself stronger and injury free. He did it by not overeating and spacing out his meals.

"I think it naturally happened when I watched what I ate," he said. "I made the sacrifices I needed to make to be on the top of my game. People talk about injuries and the possibility of injuries, but a lot of those injuries occur when you are tired or out of shape, muscle pulls, stuff like that. If I'm in the best shape of my life, I shouldn't have to worry about that stuff."

Count fellow inside linebacker Dan Fox as one of those overjoyed to hear that Te'o was coming back.

"The opportunity you can go play in the NFL, and for him to come back, that meant a lot to us and the defense," said Fox, who became a starter last season.

"He helps me out a lot. One thing I noticed is he's starting to trust me more — not that he didn't before. You can rely on somebody a little more the more they play."

Te'o's teammates rely him as a leader who will not hesitate to speak up when someone's not doing something the right way. With a coach's knowledge of the Irish defense, he expects accountability from himself and those around him.

"He's hard on himself, and the moments where he may lose focus, or he may not give it his all, even those moments are decreasing," said Diaco, a former college linebacker at Iowa.

"Not only is he going to be one of the very best linebackers that ever played here, if not the best , (but) one of the very best linebackers to ever play college football."

Te'o's place in Notre Dame history is not something he's given a lot of thought. A native of Laie, Hawaii, he's come a long way to make his mark on a program. He wants more than anything to go out a big winner.

"I hope I stand out as one of the best, but I don't get too caught up in all that stuff. Hopefully at the end of the day I'm one of the best," he said.

Notes: Coach Brian Kelly said by Monday he may sort out the practice repetitions for his No. 1 quarterback and the No. 2, meaning he will be close to picking a starter for the Sept. 1 opener in Dublin, Ireland, against Navy. Everett Golson, who's thrown only one interception during camp, and Andrew Hendrix, who played as a backup last season, are competing for the starter's role.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Steely Determination

Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety, earned his B.A. in history in 2011. The aspiring high school teacher continues to inspire fans and children on and off the field by his continuous follow-through.
By Ambrosia Brody
July 30, 2012

When Troy Polamalu left Los Angeles to join the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2003, he vowed to return and complete his college education. On May 13, 2011, he traded in his black and gold Steelers helmet and jersey for a black graduation cap and gown to make good on that promise.

Polamalu joined fellow USC Dornsife graduates on the short walk across the stage, fulfilling a commitment he made as a fourth grader to his uncle and aunt, Salu and Shelley Polamalu.

“It was something that I had left unfinished in my life,” Polamalu said. “So it was great to bring closure. It was a huge blessing, and a relief to not have that hanging over me.”

The Orange County, Calif., native believes that action supersedes talk and wishful thinking. The father of sons Paisios and Ephraim enacted “praxis,” a practice of applying or exercising ideas in one’s everyday life. In Spring 2011, Polamalu completed a semester’s worth of classes in independent study and submitted his work online while balancing football and his family life.

Polamalu’s degree hangs in his home office beside his wife Theodora’s degree. They’re the only awards to line their walls. While many may deem Polamalu’s completion of college and the fulfillment of a childhood promise admirable, he deflects the suggestion.

Although he received USC’s Most Inspirational Player Award in 2002, Polamalu does not consider himself inspirational.

“I’ve never started anything without trying my best to completely master it,” said Polamalu, who is guided by his Greek Orthodox spirituality. “I try to be an example of the best that I can be every day.”

Troy Polamalu '11 was drafted 16th overall in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the only safety ever drafted by the Steelers in the first round. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Steelers /Karl Roser.

Polamalu set his mind on attending USC just as his uncle, USC Dornsife alumnus Kennedy Pola (B.A., history, ’87), had done. As a child, Polamalu saw the university as a place where the best athletes played football. He was determined to be part of the team. At age 9, he understood that if he wanted to be accepted into USC he needed to steer clear from the gangs in his Santa Ana, Calif., community that had influenced his older siblings. In the fourth grade, during a trip to Tenmile, Ore., to visit his mother’s brother, Salu, Polamalu found the answer.

He asked his mother, Suila, if he could stay and she acquiesced. Salu and Shelley raised Polamalu the “Samoan Way,” a family system where children are taught responsibility and humility — values that Polamalu continues to put into practice.

“I was always taught to have a humble disposition on everything in life,” he said. “The ‘Samoan Way’ taught me how to be responsible and about the foundations of what you need to be successful, as a football player or as a good teammate.”

At USC Dornsife, Polamalu pursued a degree in history. It allowed him to explore a discipline that he believes embodies everything from business to sociology and religion. Within USC Dornsife’s rich liberal arts environment, he enjoyed Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Roderick McKenzie’s geography course and Professor and Chair of Anthropology Nancy Lutkehaus’ class on the changing Pacific.

“What was really awesome about Professor Lutkehaus’ class is she talked about how great the Samoan people were as sea navigators,” he said. “That was fascinating to me because these are my people and I could connect with that.”

Outside of class, Polamalu held firm to his promise to play USC football. Because of his dedication to the sport, he was twice named an All-American first team pick.

Even back then, Polamalu could be spotted from the stands with his raven black hair that sprouted beneath his helmet. The unruly frock caught the attention of a football coach during the Trojan’s junior year, which became the second and last time he cut his hair.

Polamalu is also known for his versatility on the field. Since 2003, he has played strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers — a position for which he trains countless hours.

“It’s a tremendous blessing to play in the NFL,” Polamalu said. “It’s a sport that can teach you so many important life lessons like the fear of facing somebody that’s bigger, stronger and faster than you.”

The star NFL player who has left an indelible mark on and off the field wants to one day be a high school teacher. Although he enjoys history, he is open to teaching other subjects.

Until then Polamalu continues to motivate and instill in others the importance of education by running a student-of-the-month program, which recognizes elementary- to college-aged students for their standout behavior by awarding them Pittsburgh Steelers gear. He also runs the Troy and Theodora Polamalu Foundation, the Harry Panos Fund for Veterans and a biennial football camp in American Samoa.

“I enjoy helping people through the most pivotal points in their lives,” he said. “I’ve had so much life experience from a young age: growing up in the inner city, living in the country, going to USC and playing football in the NFL. I really believe that I can impart valuable guidance to young people.”