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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pounding the pavement pays off for Hug's Tupou

Hundreds of drivers buzzed past in their cars everyday, without giving the runner a second thought. Clad in his green Hawks shorts and with his long hair pulled back, Willie Tupou didn't have time to think about the traffic. The 6-0, 300-pound Pacific Islander, who put in countless miles along the littered shoulder of McCarran Boulevard, was on a mission.

Willie Tupou's quest was three parts: run his weight down to about 250 pounds, move to the linebacker position for his senior season and ultimately earn a football scholarship to a Division I school.

"At first colleges weren't interested in me," Tupou said. "I was a real heavy guy, not really a good (height) for O-line.

"Once I dropped that weight they started looking at me harder."

In all, Tupou, who plays offensive and defensive line, lost about 65 pounds between his junior and senior seasons. Nevada, Fresno State and UNLV have shown interest in him as a defensive lineman.

The extra time on the track helped Tupou decrease his 40-yard dash time from 5.7 to 5.2 seconds, but he wasn't able to move to linebacker full time. The Hawks received an offseason transfer that helped fill the void. Tupou made the sacrifice to stay at offensive guard, the position that earned him All-League first team honors, and defensive tackle.

He lost weight through an intense workout that included morning runs of varying distances from a 1/2 mile up to five miles, with wind sprints and bleacher runs.

"You'd see him out here running the track when it was snowing outside," Hug coach Rollins Stallworth said. "I remember one time during the course of the year he was like the pied piper, he had about five or six linemen kids that were out there running the mile behind him."

In addition, Tupou exchanged a diet that mainly consisted of fast food, chips and soda for one that includes broiled chicken and fruit.

"I completely stopped drinking soda, completely stopped eating fast food," Tupou said. "It was hard for me, but I stuck with it."

Tupou decided to mold himself into a linebacker following last season. He realized the Hawks were going to be weak at the position and a body change would help his chances of receiving a scholarship offer.

"Even though the linebacker thing is somewhat far-fetched as far as being a Division I linebacker because of his speed, he has gotten faster and that's just going to help him in terms of being a defensive lineman," Stallworth said.

Although Tupou didn't move positions he realized there are other perks to his new physique.

"A bonus is the ladies really dig it," Tupou said.

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