Vakapuna Is Focused on Healing
By: Talo Steves
TBS Managing Editor
Date: Aug 16, 2006
Fui Vakapuna exploded onto the spring practice scene with such impact that head coach Bronco Mendenhall repeatedly singled him out for praise. The BYU tailback is recovering well from an injury that held him out of the first week of fall practices, but as his body mends, his thoughts turn to an ailing family member.
As spring camp ended, Taufui Vakapuna stated that he wanted to accomplish two goals over the summer. One goal was to keep the weight off his 6-foot-1 frame, and the other was to get faster and stronger. Coming into fall camp at around 234 pounds, he can check off the first as a success. The second has yet to be determined because a slight injury kept him out of most of fall camp.
The bruising tailback does not have much else to prove to BYU coaches on the practice field, so he is making a slow comeback to ensure a full recovery.
“Coaches want us to be healthy for our first game,” said Vakapuna. “We don’t have to treat the practices as a game, but they want us to make plays in practices like we will make plays like in a game. They wanted me out, and the thing about the coaches is when there is a nagging injury or something not healthy with you, they will tell you to get it checked up right away. If it’s more serious then they will more than likely make you sit out and rehab it.”
Whether it is from standing on the sidelines out of the action or due to the actual rehab process, Vakapuna felt that rehabbing is a tough process in that it takes away what he loves to do which is to play football.
“Rehab is pretty hard doing all that biking,” chuckled Vakapuna. “Justin [McClure] has a tough biking program that can be pretty intense. I think practicing is better because at least then you can have more fun while you’re doing all the work, but you know the coaches really do care about how healthy you are. It was good for me to sit out for that week just to heal up a bit.”
For Vakapuna, the real agony is not so much the physical process of getting healthy again, but mental suffering of watching his teammates have all the fun.
“Man, it’s tough not being in there playing when you’re sitting on the sidelines,” said Vakapuna. “It’s tough being out when you want to be playing with the guys you’re really close with. They’re out there, and you’re not, and that’s tough. Manase [Tonga] and the other guys and I are very close, and not being able to be out there playing with them is tough. That’s how all of us backs are. When one of us is out, all of us want that person back in to play and be a part of the action as soon as possible.”
During last Saturday’s full contact scrimmage, coaches did not want Vakapuna to participate. Tonga had the difficult task of trying to keep Vakapuna off the field.
“Man, I was holding him back and telling him to stay off the field,” laughed Manase Tonga. “Fui just wanted to go back in there and tear it up even though he was supposed to be out to get healed up. We don’t need Fui in there right now because we all know what he can do. We just need him when it’s time to play on September 2nd, and he’ll be on the field and ready to go when that time comes.”
Coaches are allowing Vakapuna to increase his level of participation every day. Monday he participated in seven-on-seven drills; yesterday he increased the contact a little more and today he took a bunch of reps in the scrimmage.
“Today I felt a little more bounce in my step,” said Vakapuna. “When you’re playing, you really don’t think too much about what’s bothering you. You just go out there and play and have fun, and that’s what I did today. I feel good. I’m just trying to do different things instead of just running over people. I’ve got better skills than that, I guess.”
Fans first caught a glimpse of Vakapuna’s potential during spring camp when he ran around, over, and through the Cougar defense. His performance in the spring game left Cougar faithful eager him in action against opponents.
“I hope that during our last blue and white game I was able to give a little show,” said Vakapuna. “Instead of just trying to run over people I want to go around and jump over people, just things like that. If there’s a hole I’ll take it and if there’s a different hole I’ll cut and take that one as best I can. The more options the better.”
While Vakapuna is happy to be getting over a minor physical set back of his own, he would gladly trade in his own physical injuries and forgo the opportunity to play football in a heart beat for the full physical recovery of his own mother who is struggling with a potentially life threatening situation.
Vakapuna’s mother was recently diagnosed with an illness that caused severe problems with her kidneys. It has been very difficult for the young tailback to go through the rigors of maintaining a high level of physical and mental effort during practice with the thoughts of his mother on his mind.
“My mom is doing well right now,” said Vakapuna doing his best to stay positive. “She will probably have to start taking a dialysis next week. We don’t know yet but she’s healthy right now and she’s stronger. She looks good and I’m grateful Heavenly Father has blessed us and has blessed her right now.”
Vakapuna is trusting in faith and prayer to get him and his mother through this difficult time. He is appreciative of the thoughts and prayers of family and friends on his mother’s behalf.
“Oh man, that would really mean a lot to me,” said a humble Vakapuna about the suggestion that BYU fans put his mother’s name, Uina