Bears Uncover a Hidden Gem in Fuimaono


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By Jim McGill, Staff Writer
Posted May 17, 2017
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2017

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Cal DT signed Siu Fuimaono
Playing in Okinawa, Japan, recent Cal defensive tackle signee Siu Fuimaono was about as far off the radar as one will ever see in a Power 5 football recruit.
The 6-4/280 native of American Samoa by way of Japan was a veritable man among boys playing for Kadena, compiling 94 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 7 sacks on the season while wreaking havoc on the field.

"We are excited about the potential we see in Siulagisipai," Cal head coach Justin Wilcox said. "His film is good, and he is a big, strong athlete that we think will help us on the defensive line. He had a chance to visit Cal this spring, and we knew after meeting him that he would be a terrific fit at Cal both academically and athletically."

After a football camp in Japan stoked Fuimaono's desire to play collegiately, he set up a visit to Cal during spring ball to check out the school and program in April.

"I've been to California once before the visit, where I visited my uncle when I was in 5th or 6th grade," said Fuimaono. "I really like it there. The people seem nice and the area is beautiful. The restaurants also look pretty promising.

"I'm excited to be able to call Berkeley my home for the next chapter of my life."

A journey from American Samoa to Japan to Berkeley is not exactly the typical road map one would expect to find in a high school recruit, to say the least.

"I came to Japan at the end of my seventh grade year, so I've been here for about five years now," said Fuimaono. "I had played football once when I was in third grade but stopped because I didn't really like it. But then I played when I got to high school, and immediately fell in love with it.

"My father played football when he was in high school as a middle linebacker in Samoa and had tried out for the New Orleans Saints at one time but didn't make the cut. A lot of other family members also played football in high school, too.

"As for watching college ball, we've been able to see a few games here, but watching football isn't really something I'm into; I prefer to play it instead. I read up a lot about Cal's new coaching staff and how prestigious the academics were. But what really sealed the deal for me was the coaching staff and how well I connected with each of them."

For a little perspective on what Cal fans can expect from their latest signee, his high school coach Sergio Mendoza offered some insightful comments on his big DT.

"Football-wise, I believe his true football skill set is yet to be fully-tapped," said Mendoza, who got his start coaching in Midland/Odessa area of West Texas after attending Texas Tech. "He has natural, raw strength that I've only encountered 2-3 times in my career.

"He is able to bull rush with incredible force and he can use his rip and swim techniques with forceful quickness and accuracy. He has fast and violent feet that can get him lateral and forward quickly. His football acumen is very strong, and he understands pre-snap clues/signs very intuitively.

"In practice, he didn't ever have to be told more than once what technique or responsibility he had in our various defensive schemes. He has an incredible upside in terms of his potential. I believe a DI program like Cal will definitely bring out the best in him. And at 280, I think he can still carry up to 30-40 more pounds of muscle."

As for intangibles, according to Mendoza, Fuimaono brings much more to the table than just a big body.

"In our program, we stress commitment, brotherhood and love as a mantra," said Mendez. "Our boys hold commitment meetings and hold each other responsible to these commitments weekly.

"As a leader/captain, Siu was always steadfast in keeping his commitments and helping his teammates keep their commitments, too. But what's most impressive was his compassion and love for his teammates. This made him a highly loved captain for the past three years. He was never a "yeller" leader...he lead by sacrificing himself in each game to his best efforts. The boys loved that about him.

"I think the PAC-12, and specifically Cal, found a jewel in Siu. It's very
difficult for our kids to get a good look because we our overseas. We have incredibly good athletes year in year out who often get bypassed because of this, but we are continually working hard to get our young men a good look. I think we owe it to our service members, and I think we can all do a better job."

Fuimoano will be on campus next month with the rest of his 2017 class for summer bridge in Berkeley. And should his coach's plaudits ring true, there might just be a spot on the field at a position of need up the middle come fall for the Bears' mystery man from Japan.
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