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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Pack's Faataualofa takes long journey to Nevada

By Chris Murray
cmurray@rgj.com
Seven years ago, Willie Faataualofa was an 18-year-old who didn't speak a word of English, spending his nights smack dab in the cold winter nights of Alaska.
And his family was more than 5,000 miles away in his native Pago Pago, American Samoa, an island country in the Pacific Ocean roughly the size of Washington D.C.
Faataualofa, now a senior on the Nevada football team, moved from American Samoa to Alaska in 2004 with a single goal. He wanted to earn enough money to move his family -- two parents, three brothers and two sisters -- to the United States.
So, Faataualofa and his older brother headed north and found jobs at a military commissary.
"I didn't know what to expect," said Faataualofa (pronounced "FAH-uh-taw-uh-low-fuh"). "It's America. It's very different. You don't know what to do at first. It took a while to get used to paying rent because we lived free on my land back home. Bills, too. It was a big difference for me."
Faataualofa's first challenge was to learn English. He couldn't afford classes, so he picked up small pieces of the language every day until he was fluent.
"I pretty much spoke my own kind of language at first," Faataualofa said, his English now nearly perfect. "I learned a little more every day and listened to people and tried to read as often as possible."
After one year in Alaska, the brothers moved to Wisconsin, where they worked at an Army base by day and restaurant by night.
By 2007 -- three years after moving to America -- Faataualofa had earned enough money to bring his family to the U.S. They settled in Stockton, Calif. And it was there that Faataualofa rekindled his love for football.

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