Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 12:05 a.m.
Thomas Tutogi wants to study criminal justice in college.
For the now, though, the Chula Vista High senior fullback/linebacker is content with laying down the law on the football field. Whether he’s carrying the ball or tracking down opposing ball carriers, his style is a bruising one.
“I just like flying around the field hitting people,” Tutogi said.
Spartans coach Judd Rachow appreciates the toughness of the 6-foot, 230-pound Tutogi.
“He brings a lot of intensity,” Rachow said. “He’s a big kid who can run around – just a heck of a football player.”
Tutogi is expected to play a key role at 7 p.m. tomorrow when Chula Vista (6-3, 4-0) plays at Eastlake (7-0-2, 4-0) for the Mesa League championship.
Tutogi said his experience on offense has helped make him a better defensive player.
“It’s easier for me to make reads because I think in terms of when I run the ball,” he said. “This way, I can anticipate the play.”
Tutogi has added motivation — a reputation to live up to, courtesy of older brother Taimi, who graduated from Chula Vista last year and is playing at the University of Arizona.
“I don’t necessarily want to follow in his footsteps,” Tutogi said. “I want to make my own name for myself.”
Apparently, not everyone got the memo.
At one game this season, every time Thomas carried the ball, the announcer called him Taimi.
“After a while, someone in my family got up and yelled to the press box, ‘Hey, that’s Thomas, not Taimi!’ ” Tutogi said. “It was pretty funny.”
The brothers were teammates for one season last year. Thomas Tutogi said he won’t forget what it was like playing linebacker behind his brother, who was stationed on the defensive line.
“I always felt confident lining up behind him,” Tutogi said. “We had a trust in each other on the field.”
His big brother helped him off the field, too.
“I learned so much from him,” Tutogi said. “He’d correct my mistakes and help me in the weight room.”
Tutogi said his brother’s graduation left a void in the locker room.
“The first couple games I was in tears because he wasn’t there anymore,” Tutogi said.
After an apprehensive first month of the season, Tutogi said he adjusted.
“I talk to him about once a week,” Tutogi said. “He’ll always be there for me.”
So will one other individual. Tutogi said after a Friday night of banging bodies with the big boys he is ready for some comic relief.
“I’ll come home from our Saturday morning meeting and watch SpongeBob,” he said. “My dad will walk into the room and say something like, ‘You’re 17 years old and you’re still watching that?’ It just makes me laugh.”
Tutogi said those closest to him have provided inspiration when he takes the field.
“My family wants to be there for me,” Tutogi said of his rooting section at Spartans games. “It makes me feel comfortable knowing they’re there because we’ve always been so close.”
That includes his older brother, whose guidance also provided Tutogi with a challenge.
“I want to be better than him,” Tutogi said.