Posted on: Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Tuioti-Mariner can cheer at last
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
During his football recruiting visit two years ago, Clarence "Lafu" Tuioti-Mariner went into the Aloha Stadium stands and began chanting, "Go UH! . . . Go UH!"
But injuries during his first two University of Hawai'i seasons left him with few good cheers — that is until last week, when he was moved from nose tackle to center.
"When the coaches gave me the good news, I told my family back home (in Riverside, Calif.)," he recalled. "My dad was happy."
Indeed, for Tuioti-Mariner, happiness is good health and a return to the offensive line.
"I was an offensive tackle in high school, when the coaches recruited me," he said. "I played a little defense, but that wasn't my position."
He redshirted in 2004, his first season at UH, after suffering torn ligaments in his left shoulder. Still, he practiced regularly, and was named the Warriors' Defensive Scout Player of the Year. "The injury didn't stop me," he said. "I practiced until I got that surgery."
Last season, the Warriors switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive alignment, but his luck didn't change. He suffered an injury to his left knee during training camp. His pride was in worse condition.
"To tell you the truth," he said of his place on the depth chart, "I was at the bottom."
And there he remained until last week, when UH coach June Jones decided that Tuioti-Mariner was facing the wrong direction. Moving the yard from nose tackle to center turned Tuioti-Mariner's mood.
"I've got a lot of work to do, but I love it," he said. "It's been three years since I've been on the O-line. There's a lot of work that needs to be done, but I feel I'm at home."
At 6 feet and 280 pounds, Tuioti-Mariner is the smallest of the three centers, behind starter Samson Satele and freshman John Estes. "I've got a big heart," he said.
Jones said: "He's a tough guy. He's got good bounce (footwork). He'll be a good center."
Tuioti-Mariner said his left knee is "100 percent. I'm better physically."
He also has blocked efficiently. "The biggest thing is learning all of the calls," he said.
Tuioti-Mariner is the cousin of Tony Tuioti, a starting defensive tackle for the Warrior team that won the 1999 O'ahu Bowl.
Tuioti-Mariner is the latest nose tackle to change positions. Keala Watson, Fale Laeli and Rocky Savaiigaea are playing defensive end this spring. Renolds Fruean, who will move to defensive end, is working this spring and will rejoin the team in August. Reagan Mauia and Siave Seti have moved to running back.