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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Uncle on UA's staff helped land Amituana'i

Uncle on UA's staff helped land Amituana'i

But Polynesians' emphasis family bonds didn't make signing easy as one might think
Published: 09.01.2006
Family is vitally important to the Polynesian people, which made the recruiting of Arizona defensive tackle Conan Amituana'i a little difficult.
The 6-foot-4, 280-pound true freshman from Poly High School in Long Beach, Calif., signed with the Wildcats in February after being recruited by defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo, his uncle.
"It was especially hard for me because Conan's mom is my sister," Tuiasosopo said. "It was hard to separate from personal and business. He didn't know which uncle he was getting from day to day. He didn't know if he was getting the uncle the coach or the uncle the uncle."
But even with Washington, Oregon, UCLA and California getting involved in the recruiting, it was Arizona, and family, that eventually won a player who joins six others on the Wildcats' roster with a Polynesian background.
"He wanted to be his own person, and I wanted to give him space," Tuiasosopo said. "But with each day, whenever I heard he was leaning to this school or that, I took it personal. I think it eventually came down to family. He knew he had an uncle here to watch over him, to push him and challenge him the best he could. I am very happy he is here. He is a explosive, big athlete."
That family bond is common among most Polynesian players, regardless of where they live.
With family, their passion for fun and religion, there is plenty driving Amituanai and the rest of the Polynesian players who play college football.
"Throughout my whole life, not only was the language taught to me, but respect is a big part of my culture," the freshman said. "Whatever you do, you have to be passionate about it. We are passionate, whether it be dancing or singing, and now we have a lot of Polynesians playing football."
Driving Amituanai to be better are not only his own standards and his family's, but earlier generations as well.
Some of the big-name Polynesian players who have made lengthy careers for themselves in the NFL are Junior Seau, Luther Elliss, David Dixon, Marques Tuiasosopo and former Wildcats Joe Salave'a and Edwin Mulitalo.

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