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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fate of Sun Devils, Wildcats rests on QBs' shoulders

In Tucson, Willie Tuitama is tired of discussing his health. He's fine. And he can't wait to operate the spread. Talk about a quarterback's dream.

But entering fall practice, Tuitama had more immediate skills to master: His leadership, a work in progress.

"Willie wants to be everybody's best friend," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "And that becomes a problem. There's a time when you have to put your foot down."

Over the summer, as Tuitama worked in the weight room and threw to receivers, he carried Wooden on Leadership in his backpack, reading John Wooden's wisdom when time allowed.

One day, Tuitama took a call from Jason White, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma. White had worked with Tuitama at a camp after his senior high school season. He had kept up with Tuitama's progress from a distance, but this time he wanted to help.

"I told him that leadership starts in the huddle," White said. "If you're not assertive in the huddle, the play isn't going to work. That's where it starts. How you call it shows how much confidence you have in it."

White said he sees himself in Tuitama. He was quiet and laid back when he arrived in Norman. Then he watched Josh Heupel and realized that success starts with attitude.

"You're in command, and at times you kind of have to be a jerk about it," White said. "Besides, if you have your teammates' respect, they won't consider it you being a jerk. They'll consider it you doing your job."

Tuitama acknowledged that his first instinct is to make sure everyone around him is comfortable. But that's changing, he said. He took charge in conditioning sessions. He led by example, reportedly losing 25 pounds.

"Honestly, I very much can be (a jerk)," Tuitama said, "there are just times when I choose not to. But I'm at a point where I have two years left. If I want to go to the next level, I have to start making a name for myself. If it takes being a jerk to do it, that's what I'm going to do."

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