“Tino, go get them.”
That defensive play call of
sorts, uttered on occasion by Dysart coach Andrew Garrett, won’t land
Fa’asagua Tinoisamoa a spot in a manual.
But it’s a measure of how, even in the ultimate team game, a rare individual talent makes everything simple.
As a true nose tackle in the Demons’ 5-2 alignment,
Tinoisamoa racked up a team-high 87 tackles and 17 sacks as a junior in
The kicker — it was only his second season of organized football.
“When that kid decides he wants something, he’s going
to do it. Sometimes we have to be a little careful because he can be
overaggressive and jump offsides,” Garrett said. “But in certain
situations, we tell him to go on first sound or first movement and we
let him blow stuff up. When the game’s on the line, you can turn to Tino
and say, ‘Hey, make a play,’ and he’ll do it for you.”
Three years ago, football, much less making a career
out of it, was the furthest thing from Tinoisamoa’s mind. He was in his
native American Samoa attending an honor school and focusing on his
While football is in his blood — first cousin Pisa
Tinoisamoa is an eight-year NFL veteran and another cousin plays at
Wyoming — sports weren’t in the picture.
Months before his sophomore year, his family moved to Arizona for educational reasons.
Football came about mostly because of coaches’ curiosity about the new 6-foot, 200-pound sophomore on campus.
“It was hard that first year. Football was so
different and even learning and teaching were different than in Samoa,”
Tinoisamoa said. “It’s hard to adapt to the way of life out here. I just
want to come out here for a better opportunity — there’s a lot more
opportunities than there is in Samoa.”
Surprisingly, learning how to play a new sport came more naturally than attending an American high school.
Tinoisamoa started the first game of his football career, recording three sacks in a 2010 win at Flagstaff.
“He was really raw, but right from the beginning we
knew we had something special,” Garrett said. “The potential in the kid
is huge. I would say he’s about halfway on his rise to what he’s going
Naturally soft-spoken, Tinoisamoa is even more reserved in his second language. But life in El Mirage has become more enjoyable.
While there’s still a bit of cultural disconnect on
his part, few Arizona schools are more comfortable for a Samoan. In
recent years, several families from the islands have moved to El Mirage.
Garrett said three Samoan football players graduated in May, and two more joined Tinoisamoa on the varsity this fall.