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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sauvao steps up as a leader

He has thick black tattoos running down either arm. A mohawk crowns his head. On game day, his face is decorated with thick triangles of eye black.
An intimidating figure at 6 feet 3 inches tall and 300 pounds, Wes Tunuufi Sauvao, a proud Samoan and supporter of the troops, has developed into a leader on the football field and as a mentor to younger players on the team.
"In my culture, being Samoan, we wear war paint. The triangles mean the coming of manhood,"  said Sauvao, redshirt senior defensive tackle.
His tattoos are a reference to his heritage.
Sauvao got them last year while visiting his parents in Alaska by a tattoo artist who knew traditional Samoan designs.
"This is my culture, my history, my heritage. Showing 2,000 years of pride is who I am," Sauvao said.
His father, Army Staff Sgt. Eneriko Sauvao, is stationed in Alaska. As with his heritage, Sauvao is proud of his father's service in the military.
While serving in Iraq, Eneriko sent his son an American flag. That flag was in his son's hands while running out of the tunnel before last season's game against Tulane.
The UCF football program has honored the military multiple times during home games, most recently during the homecoming game games Rice, with paratroopers and a flyby.
"It makes me feel great to recognize the support of the men and women that go and serve our country and give us the opportunity to live free every day," Sauvao said. "They give me the opportunity to go to school, practice and play on Saturdays."
After the departure of last season's starting defensive tackles Torrell Troup and Travis Timmons, George O'Leary invited Sauvao back for a fifth year on the team.
"It meant a lot to me to know that the coaching staff and this program supported me and thought I could help the team get to where we want to be," Sauvao said.
After beginning his career on the defensive scout team, Sauvao has moved between the offensive and defensive lines.
This is his first season as a starter on defense for Sauvao, who has 2.5 tackles for loss this year.
Sauvao said that part of his role on the team is to be a leader and help mentor the young defensive players.
He has spent substantial time watching film with young defensive tackles Victor Gray and E.J. Dunston.
"He loves the game. Whether he's getting five reps or 50 reps, he wants to be out there and be the best every rep he gets," Gray said.
His role as a mentor has helped make defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable's job a little easier.
"He is very vocal on our defensive line, calling out tendencies of the offense," Huxtable said. "He's very sharp in that way, and he takes a lot of pride in that."
Sauvao is on his way to earning a degree in legal studies after graduating with his first degree in criminal justice and another in psychology.
He considers his education important and is keeping his options open for whatever comes after UCF.
"He's helped a lot on the field but off the field as well," Gray said. "He's been telling me how his experience has been in college and about things I should and shouldn't be doing."
Sauvao is well respected by players and coaches and will leave a large footprint on the fields when his time at UCF is over.
"He is one of the neatest kids I've ever been around," Huxtable said. "He has a great personality and is very close with his family unit and with the guys on the team. Just a tremendous team player."

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