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Monday, May 05, 2008

Myles from ordinary

David Biderman
Special to Rivals High
Every summer, Myles Muagututia, his family and about 300 of their closest friends have a luau to celebrate their Samoan culture.

They have barbeques with Samoan and American food. They sing, play instruments and dance to Samoan music. And don't forget about the sports; they always have sports. Football, volleyball and basketball are staples of every Muagututia family gathering.

Muagututia elevates to spike in volleyball; also hopes to elevate his GPA to 4.0
That upbringing, along with an athletic, outdoors-obsessed family, has helped Myles become a three-sport star at The Francis Parker School in San Diego.

"We just have a love for activity and playing sports in general," Muagututia said of his family.

"When you have lots of people get together, you have to entertain each other," said Myles' mom, Kathy. "When the family is together, we keep everyone busy and we always have some sort of athletics going on."

The Muagututia family athletic pedigree is deep and decorated. Myles' older brothers, Grant and Garrett, played volleyball in high school. Garrett, who also played basketball, currently is a sophomore volleyball player at UCLA.

Kathy played volleyball at UC Riverside, and Myles' dad, Faauuga, played volleyball, basketball and football at Carson (Calif.) High School. Faauuga didn't play sports in college; instead, he became a Navy SEAL.

"Always having athletics in the family got me into sports really early," Muagututia said. "Me and my brothers were always staying active."

Muagututia started playing volleyball at 11. Now a junior setter, Muagututia is a three-year starter for Francis Parker, which is aiming for its ninth consecutive California Interscholastic Federation-San Diego Section title.

But Muagututia is about much more than volleyball. He also starts on the basketball team, and after playing non-contact football in middle school (his father wanted him to learn the fundamentals before getting mangled by opponents), Muagututia played junior-varsity football as a freshman. Initially, he played running back because his coach figured that would be the best way to keep the ball in his hands. He moved up to the varsity as a sophomore and now, at 6 feet 2 and 195 pounds, he plays wide receiver and linebacker.

"I wanted another challenge, so I really started going after football," Muagututia said. "I've been around volleyball for so long that I wanted to learn and get good at a new sport.

"Football will be my priority if I can play in college."

His preferred destination? Stanford.

Athletics run deep in the Muagututia family and being a three sport athlete is more the norm than the exception
Muagututia has a 3.83 grade-point-average while taking five core classes, among them an advanced-placement chemistry class and an honors American History class. His goal is to earn at least a 4.0 GPA by the end of his senior year.

"Stanford is definitely looking good to me," said Muagututia, who visited the campus April 11-13 and eventually wants to be a lawyer. "They have all of the things that I like."

Law and football might not seem similar, but Muagututia said the strategy involved in both is analogous. In each pursuit, he said, you have to think ahead, practice and work with others. And when the two contrast, that's a good thing, too.

"It's good to have that difference," Muagututia said. "One thing kind of takes me away from the other. When I get sick of sports, I can read a book. When I get sick of class, I can just have fun on the field."

Muagututia's day starts at about 6 a.m. He lives almost an hour away from Francis Parker, a private school with about 1,200 students. He does his homework on the car rides back and forth from home. After his first five periods, he works with a personal trainer to increase his body control and stamina for football. Then he heads to practice with the rest of his teammates.

Kathy Muagututia thinks her son's Samoan background is at the root of his seemingly limitless energy. Myles hasn't been to Samoa, but his father and his grandparents are from there and his brother, Grant, helped him learn about his heritage.

Most Samoan ideals, Kathy said, revolve around faith and appreciation and "don't allow room for outside distractions." If you live life to the fullest, she said, you are showing gratitude for the things that have been given to you.

"Every day you have and everything you're able to do are gifts," Kathy said. "I think Myles really realizes that his athletic gifts are a privilege, so he always works hard to improve them."

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