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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fanaikas walk on, succeed at ASU

by Jeff Metcalfe - Nov. 25, 2008 07:05 PM
The Arizona Republic

There's almost no chance for a Paul Fanaika today in major-college football - a guy who shows up at an open tryout, makes good as a scout-team offensive lineman and, five years later, leaves with the second-most starts among the seniors.

Yet that's what Fanaika accomplished at Arizona State. Not only that, his sister Lavinia (Nia for short) made the ASU women's basketball team as a walk-on and is in her fourth and final season.

"It's quite a story," said their father Sunia. "I knew Paul could get a chance to play, even when at times it seemed like a long shot. One thing he had was his size and his commitment."

What he didn't have initially was the full support of his extended family. His paternal grandfather, in particular, wanted him to stay in the Bay Area near their home in Daly City, Calif.

Sunia Fanaika (pronounced Fan-EYE-kuh) is from the Pacific Island nation Tonga, where family means everything.

"In a lot of ways, decision making is influenced by the family structure, to the point where you're kind of held back," Sunia said, "especially going to college away from home. For us, it was always different. Our kids were always involved in a lot of activities that enabled them to go away for short periods of time - especially to San Francisco, where it's so diverse.

"We caught some flak about being too Westernized. But we did encourage our kids to find a place and be comfortable."

Paul's dream coming out of Mills High in nearby Millbrae was to play Pac-10 football in warm weather. His coach, Barrett Krieger, unsuccessfully lobbied on Fanaika's behalf.

"I sent out a lot of tapes," Krieger told the Palo Alto (Calif.) Daily News in 2006. "He was big, strong, mobile, an effective blocker. I told UCLA that if they don't take him, he's going to be playing against you someday."

Fanaika, who earned a scholarship after the 2005 season, will make his 34th consecutive start at right guard Friday against UCLA. Senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter (41) and junior defensive end Dexter Davis (36) are the only active Sun Devils with more starts.

"I was willing to try out just to keep playing football," Fanaika said. "Because when you like something so much, it doesn't matter what you have to do to get it."

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