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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A long road to USC

A good article from Scout's on Travis Tofi of USC. Picture to the left is of the 2005 Polynesians at USC AIGA Foundation Poster. Fred Matua and Taitusi Lutui have moved onto the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals respectively.

A long road to USC
Garry Paskwietz
Jul 23, 2006

There has been a lot of talk recently about how the USC program has been attracting so many out of state players but no player on the Trojan roster has traveled farther to get here than Tupulua Travis Tofi. Originally from American Samoa, Travis is expected to play a key role on the USC d-line this year. Click below to read more:

"I grew up in American Samoa, in the village of Aoa. It’s a village way behind the mountains, on the ocean, roughly 500 people, pretty much everyone knows each other, it’s really relaxed. There are about 70,000 people total on the island.

"I have three brothers and one sister, I’m the oldest. My parents are originally from Samoa, most of my family are from there. I had different chores as a kid than people have from America. We planted bananas, we did all kinds of gardening. I got tired of it though because it’s really hard work. I like pig. Pig and seafood, those are my favorites from home.

"You could say it was a dream of mine to come to the United States. When you are growing up, everyone always talks about this as the place to come. I figured sports would be my way to get over here. I played some rugby but it’s a rough game and our high school coach tried to keep us football players away from it because we were playing for the school. I also played some basketball and volleyball, just for fun.

"I got cut in my ninth grade year from varsity football and we didn’t have a JV team that year. In my sophomore year I played JV and then I played varsity my last two years. It’s pretty bad in Samoa in terms of equipment and everything because we just don’t have the funding. We would have to share helmets during games, the fields are all messed up but the kids don’t care. We just want to play. Football is like the biggest thing on the island. I’ve sent stuff back to my old high school (Fagaitua HS) because my brother (Pooch, a former linebacker at Louisiana Tech) is the coach there now and he’s always bugging me to send him stuff. He says the kids are always asking “did Travis send some stuff?” so I try to send some shorts, some shirts, stuff like that. My brother and my family tell me that everyone makes a big deal of the fact that I play for USC but to me I haven’t really done anything yet. I mean, maybe if I become a starter that would be good.

"I didn’t start getting recruited by USC until late in my senior year of high school, it was like April or May. Keith Uperesa (former USC OL coach) was at a camp for Samoan kids and he was watching tape of some of the senior kids, he saw me and started talking to me about looking at USC. I got a lot of offers after that camp from smaller schools like Troy State but Utah and USC were the two big schools. I looked at is as a chance of lifetime, to come to a school like USC. It wasn’t a hard decision to make.

"When I first got here the hardest part was not being around my parents and my family. Everything was different, lifestyle-wise. School was hard. Back home, everything is relaxed, you don’t really have to worry about time. Out here, everything is about being on time. There wasn’t anything easy about the transition and that first year I just really wanted to go back home. Now that I’ve gotten adjusted to being our here I like the beaches, Santa Monica, the different places you can go. I like going out for Chinese food, for sushi.

"I haven’t gone back to Samoa since I got to USC. It’s been tough at times. It was really tough at first. I’d like to go visit, as soon as possible. My mom has been able to visit me, she was here for the Arkansas game last year. My brother was here last year for the UCLA game too. I’ve got some family up in Barstow, an aunt lives up there and I’ve got a one-year old niece who I’m going to visit today for her birthday.

"It’s been real important to me to have so many other Polynesian players at USC. I feel like they are my brothers. I feel real comfortable around them because they understand the Polynesian culture, both Samoans and Tongans. When I first got here Lenny Vandermade helped me by telling me how to approach stuff, Malaefou MacKenzie, Troy (Polamalu), they were all great guys to me. If had had to give any advice to a player coming here from the island I would tell them to stay focused because there are a lot of distractions here. Things that you don’t have on the island, they have here, and your parents aren’t around to tell you no. You can get in trouble real easy. It was intimidating when I first got to USC, I didn’t go out for like my whole first year because it was like my parents were still there watching me.

"People who see me now might think that I’m quiet but people that know me don’t say that. Maybe it’s a comfort thing. I guess I don’t really talk a lot unless I’m comfortable with someone or really know them. Something people don’t know about me is that I play piano. I took it as a class last year and I liked it a lot. It’s like my hobby now, if I have free time I stop by the music building and play a little.

"When I first got here my position coach was Ed Orgeron, crazy guy. He’s a good coach but he was really hard on me. He was hard on everybody, I don’t know, he was just a real hard coach. We’ve got Coach Holt now, he’s got kind of the same coaching style as Coach O but just not as crazy. Right now I consider my strength as a player to be my experience. I’ve been here five years and I know all the defensive plays. If I need to work on anything it would be my speed. I’ve had some ankle injuries that have slowed me down. I think I need to get stronger too. I’ve been injured for the past two spring balls and I’m recovering right now from a stress fracture but it feels good and I should be ready to go for fall camp.

"Playing under Coach Carroll has been great because he’s a players coach. He’s always been good to me, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to play for him. Trojan fans should watch out for the leo end spot this year with Kyle Moore and Jeff Schweiger. I watch them work out every day, they are so fast and I think they are going to really step up. The guy I battle the most in practice is center Ryan Kalil, I go up against him a lot and he’s a pretty strong guy.

"When I look back at my USC career my favorite memory is probably playing alongside Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson. I couldn’t believe it when I was doing it, here were these two great football players, these great guys, and here I was playing right behind them. My goal in football is to make it to the NFL, that would be really great so that I could help out my family. When my football career is done, I’m still deciding about returning to Samoa or not. A lot of people tell me to stay here because this is where the opportunities are but for me it is important to give back to my family. With my whole family back there it would be good to just spend time with them and hang out with them too."

#95 Travis Tofi – Senior DL
6-3, 270
Sociology major
Career at USC – 21 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3 pass deflections

Favorite movie “Cinderella Man”

Favorite TV show “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”

Favorite music “I like reggae and Samoan music”

Favorite video game “We’ve been playing FIFA a lot lately but I also like Madden”

If I could have dinner with any three people, alive or dead, they would be “my grandmother, Michael Jordan and Sunday Tsai”

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