by Anthony Gimino on Feb. 03, 2011
The Arizona Wildcats signed two Polynesian offensive linemen — Faitele Faafoi and Lene Maiava — on Wednesday. Coach Mike Stoops added a junior college defensive tackle, Aowae De Rego, who attended high school in Hawaii.
To make it easier, he goes by the first name of Lamar.
Beyond that, freshman defensive tackle Saneilia Fuimaono enrolled at the semester break. He joins a dizzying array of vowels on the defensive line — Kirifi Taulu, Auilua Fanene and Sione Tuihalamaka.
Former Arizona assistant Mike Tuiasosopo, who left for Colorado after last season, did a nice job of helping the Wildcats recruit Polynesian players during the Stoops era. But Arizona’s recruiting power in that area has tripled.
Stoops’ three new assistants — offensive line coach Robert Anae, secondary coach Duane Akina and defensive tackles coach Joe Salave’a — all have strong ties to that part of the world.
“I think we’ll get stronger and stronger,” Stoops said of recruiting Polynesian players, especially those directly from the islands. “I think we have a great chance to own that part of the country.”
Anae grew up on the North Shore of Hawaii and attended Kahuku High School, where his late father, Famika, was the long-time football coach. Robert was a graduate assistant at Hawaii for Dick Tomey.
Akina was Hawaii’s Prep Athlete of the Year at Honolulu’s Punahou High School in 1975, and he later served as an assistant at Hawaii, also under Tomey.
Salave’a, from American Samoa, had a notable NFL career and has held football camps on the islands through his foundation.
“These guys are legend where they’re from,” Stoops said.
“Their record speaks for themselves. The quality of people they are is the quality of people they attract. Certainly, that is what we look for — that character. You’re not going to find three better men than these guys. They’re role models for these kids to look up to.”
Other Wildcats with Polynesian backgrounds include running backs Keola Antolin and Taimi Tutogi.
While at Arizona, Tomey sent at least a dozen players with Polynesian ties to the NFL: DL Stan Mataele, OL Mu Tagoai, OL Pulu Poumele, OT Edwin Mulitalo, TE Brandon Manumaleuna, DE Van Tuinei, OL Makoa Freitas, OL Makai Freitas, OL Steven Grace, OL Kili Lefotu, OL Manu Savea and Salave’a.
“There are no athletes that are, in my estimation, more competitive, more athletic or more family-oriented, or who fit into a team concept as well as Samoan athletes,” Tomey once told Sports Illustrated. “The more we could get on our team, the better I felt.”
Given his new assistants, perhaps Stoops can start feeling better, too.