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Friday, August 13, 2010

This is how it starts

Article on Georgia State and newcomers Jake and Louie Muasau

The Brothers

The boys sleep on piles of clothes in the back of their family's Chevy Astro in parking lots around Los Angeles. They share cans of tuna and saltines, brush their teeth at a drinking fountain, wet a washrag at a garage sink and wipe beneath their arms before school. They are raised to believe in God and to pray. After their dad passed away, they drove with their mom to Phoenix before settling in Sierra Vista. They move into low-income housing, sneaking school cafeteria food home to Mom.
Samoan and proud, they grow to be big kids, with long hair, thick arms and dark eyes. They star in the defensive backfield at Buena High. Louie Muasau, older by a year, hits hard and is afraid of no one; his brother Jake is rocket fast.
Louie moves three hours away to play at Phoenix College after high school, while his family still struggles to put food on the table. Without his big brother around, Jake goes astray and is busted selling a small amount of prescription drugs. In the middle of his senior year, Jake faces expulsion as he stands before a panel of teachers and school board members. He tells them, in his soft voice, that he did it only so he and his mother could eat. Two local women, both juvenile probation officers, know Jake and speak on his behalf, asking that he be able to complete his studies at home rather than be expelled and lose his chance before he even has one. The vote is 12-to-1 against expulsion.
With the guidance and tutelage of these women, Jake graduates and enrolls at Phoenix College in 2008, where Louie, after redshirting as a freshman, has become a fierce 235-pound linebacker. Jake also becomes a linebacker, and the Muasaus start side by side for two years. But both brothers are sick with the flu when GSU assistant Chris Ward makes his recruiting rounds in September 2009. He sees film of Louie, but Jake hasn't made a reel yet, so only Louie gets invited for an official visit that December.
All Louie talks about on that trip to Atlanta is Jake. "My brother's better. You need to see him," he keeps saying. Coach Ward and Coach Thompson don't know if Louie is pushing Jake because they're brothers or if he's telling the truth. "Their coach said they were both great," Ward says, "and that they didn't want to leave each other's side. We fell in love with Louie on his visit. He called himself Louie the Lion and had this personality, this long hair -- he brought in something we didn't have. He wanted to be a king, the leader."
When they get tape of Jake from the 2009 season that winter, "everybody's jaws drop," Thompson remembers. "He was a phenomenal player." They call Louie and offer them both spots.
Nine months before the program's debut, the Muasau boys move to Atlanta, where Louie soon takes over the defensive huddle. Players listen to him, because he demands attention. Now 6'1", 243 pounds, Jake is still as fast in person as he is on film. The brothers play side by side, teaching their teammates the Haka dance. In July, Louie is named to the FCS All­Independent Team in Phil Steele's preseason magazine.
"They're humble guys, appreciative," Ward says. "When they first came here, they said, 'Coach, do we have to pay for this food?' And I said, 'No, Louie. Y'all don't have to pay for it. Y'all are on scholarship. Enjoy it.'"

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