PULLMAN — The first thing you notice about Sekope Kaufusi is the hair.
There are, seemingly, yards of jet-black, wavy tresses tumbling out from underneath his Washington State football helmet.
Sure, Kaufusi would love to have a Head and Shoulders commercial some day like his idol — and hair hero — Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And, sure, the hair makes it easier for those who care about Kaufusi to follow his footsteps on the football field.
But there is much more about Kaufusi than just the hair.
The football resume says Kaufusi, who grew up in East Palo Alto, Calif., is a 19-year-old redshirt freshman linebacker turned defensive end turned linebacker again.
Thrust into the middle last week against 15th-ranked Arizona due to injuries and suspensions, Kaufusi responded with a career-high eight tackles.
It shouldn't be surprising. At 6 feet 3 and 233 pounds, he's the size of a full-grown man.
He has full-grown responsibilities off the field as well.
He and girlfriend Sui Sami live together with their 1-year-old son, Ziggy Atagi-Kaufusi, born in June 2009, just before Sekope left for his freshman year at WSU.
"Yes, it's hard, balancing school, football and my family," Kaufusi said. "I'm just taking it day by day. Whatever happens, happens. Everything happens for a reason, so I just roll with the punches, do what I can for my family."
But he couldn't do it without Sami, who stays at home with Ziggy, bringing him to practice occasionally and to home games, where it's easy to pick out dad. The hair, remember.
Asked how he's able to compartmentalize the responsibilities, Kaufusi is quick to credit Sami.
"I get a lot from her, because she's very independent," Kaufusi said. "She grew up with a lot of people, but she always had to take care of herself."
The couple met through relatives in high school when Sami was visiting from Sacramento.
"We would hang out at my cousin's house," said Kaufusi, of Tongan heritage. "From there it just sparked."
As for his life now, Kaufusi said, "There are a lot of things I forget to do and Sami gets mad at me. And I can't stop Ziggy from going into the cupboards, grabbing all the pots and pans and just thumping them all over the place."
Appropriate behavior for a child named for musician Ziggy Marley.