Ex-BYU star and NFL player tackles internship
y Jacob E. Osterhout
At 6-feet 3-inches and 310 pounds, Ifo Pili, 26, has spent most of his life tackling opponents on the football field. Recently, the former NFL lineman and BYU defensive standout traded his jersey for a tie and his cleats for loafers. Pili now tackles administrative problems as the new city management intern in Eagle Mountain, Utah.
"You should see how he takes over the cubicle," says fellow employee Shawn Warnke, 33. "He fills the entire space. Nobody here is anywhere close to his size."
Pili -- whose full name, Faaifoaoolelagi Matina Pili, means "the bowing of clouds in heaven" -- was an all-conference nose tackle during his junior and senior years at BYU. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans in 2004, the run-stopping specialist briefly played for Houston before being picked up by the eventual NFC champion Eagles. But injuries plagued Pili and he was released during the 2005 preseason and suddenly forced to explore alternative career options.
Pili wasn't worried, though. A native of American Samoa, he had envisioned a transition into politics. Interning seemed like a logical opportunity to learn about city management. "Ever since I was 10 years old, I've always told people that I was going to law school and going to work for the government," he says. "Politics runs in my family. My dad is in the House of Representatives in Samoa and I have an uncle who is the congressional representative for Samoa in D.C."
After his NFL release, Pili decided to finish the master's degree in public administration that he had started while in college. He moved his wife and three kids to Eagle Mountain, bought a condo and landed an internship with the city.
"I really enjoy it here," says the soft-spoken Pili. "I have a vested interest in the city 'cause I live here. Plus, I like my job as a management analyst, which means I do everything from looking at our pay scale and wages to finding new ways to bring in revenue for the city."
Pili tries to keep a low profile around the office, but people can't help noticing the former BYU star. "He's a real humble guy, but still people recognize his name from his college days here," says Warnke. "In the office, he is just like everyone else, but the public works guys look at him as more of a celebrity."
"It's funny how many football fans are out there," Pili says. "I think playing at BYU and the NFL probably opened some doors for me."
He also believes that his football skills have transferred nicely to the office. "Football is the greatest sport in the world because you have to mesh with all different shapes, sizes and personalities," he says. "There are so many people working to make the team good and that's the same with this job."
While Pili is low-man on the office food chain, his coworkers tend to not pick on him. "I've given him some menial tasks, which I have felt bad about doing, but he's accepted them all," says Warnke. "He's really good at what he does in the office, but it's funny to see him in the little truck we ride around in."
Occasionally, Pili misses his more active football days. "Sometimes I get bored sitting at a desk," he says. "But it's cool, though, 'cause every week I've been going out with each department. I got to shovel sewage last week. It was great. I'm getting to understand the whole spectrum of the city."
Pili maintains that he could be back in football shape if given two weeks notice, but for now, he's happy developing a new skill set.
"He's never run tackling drills in the office," Warnke says, "but he's gotten real good at using the label maker."