Introducing the 2005 Class: Richard Tuitu'u

An offensive lineman with limited athleticism is clearly a thing of the past. The hogs upfront may be bigger on average than their predecessors from a decade or two ago, but their agility and quickness defies the larger physical frame in which they work in. No one exemplifies this phenomenon than local Gilbert Highland's standout Richard Tuitu'u.

Following a standout senior year on his high school football team, Richard Tuitu'u, wasn't quite done displaying his athletic capabilities. At 310 pounds he had 50 pancake blocks tossing defensive linemen onto the turf. After dropping nearly 40 pounds, he was pinning opponents to the mat and came within a hair of winning the state's wrestling heavyweight division championship. So how does one slim down that many pounds in the short time between football and wrestling seasons?

"I've done this for the last three years," said Tuitu'u who was rated Scout.com's no. 7 player in the state of Arizona. "So I knew what to do and how to do it. I could have dropped the weight way sooner, but I procrastinated and the coach got on me. So, I had to do it in three weeks, and I lost 30 pounds. The first week I didn't eat anything. Then I was just eating a lot of vegetables and fruits. When I leveled off at 275, I could eat whatever I wanted and still be in that weight." The lineman added that running several miles each day with three layers of clothing helped his cause as well.

It may be hard for others that made such big sacrifices, as Tuitu'u, to be content to get to the finals and lose. However, he does look back with a sense or pride and redemption due to the doubts that he was facing. "I'm still proud of what I did," he said. "Last year, I didn't even make it to state (tournament). This year I was the underdog. Everybody on the message boards said I wouldn't make weight, that if I needed to lose 40 pounds I would have to cut off my legs (laughs), coaches from other schools said I wouldn't make it…I used all that into my training and getting better. When I beat the #2 guy in the state, everyone was like ‘man, he's really coming back.' I just took it one match at a time, and I was proud to be in the finals after not making it last year."

Rise above the skepticism of others, is something Tuitu'u is all too familiar with, as he experienced it with his pigskin teammates a couple of weeks into the season. Not only did he and his squad defy the pessimists, but they also went on to have one of the best seasons the Hawks had in recent years. "This year was the best memory of all of high school," he exclaimed. "We lost those two games and everyone was saying ‘here we go again, we're gonna have a bad season.' We just came together after our first two games, and then we started winning a lot of games. We had to beat Hamilton (their only loss of the year), the state champions, to get into the playoffs. We didn't know if we had a chance or not, and we weren't as confident. But we scored on our first drive after just four plays, and then the whole team amped up. We had one penalty the whole game, played great, and won that game." Gilbert Highland finished 9-4, losing to eventual 5A state champs Hamilton in the semifinals. Tuitu'u was individually rewarded as the winner of the Frank Kush award, presented annually by the Valley of the Sun Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of fame, to the state's top offensive lineman.

With his success as both a football player and a wrestler, the question arises which sport influenced the other more when it came to enhancing his skills. Tuitu'u believes that it was wrestling over the years that has aided him become a better offensive lineman. "Wrestling helps a lot with balance," he commented. "You need to know where your weight is at, or you get thrown down. Your footwork is important too. In football those balance skills helped me block the linemen."

Tuitu'u's play in his junior year started to garner attention from in-state schools, as well as some that were quite far from his home. "(ASU's) Coach Nordquist came to see me at the end of my junior year," he recalled. "He came across as a very nice and professional person. He talked about playing close to my family and them coming here and supporting me, and also being able to drive 15 minutes down the street to see them if I needed to." The lineman added that Arizona was the first school to offer, followed by ASU. Cal, Utah, Washington, BYU, San Diego State, Oregon State, Missouri, and UTEP are some of the other major programs that extended scholarship offers.

Just like the Sun Devils were pointing out all the advantages of staying near his hometown, the out-of-state suitors were stating their claim for the lineman to spread his wings and play elsewhere. "They said I should get away from home, and be my own man, " he said. "At one time it really was appealing, and I really wanted to play away from home. If I stayed home, I would be in the same place I've been for the last 18 years, but if I went away I would experience new things and new people."

Ever since he was in high school, Tuitu'u remembers following Arizona State and his family wasn't shy of planting the ‘hometown seed' before the recruiting process ever begun. "I watched ASU on TV, but I didn't think back then that I was gonna be a real good football player," he said. "Over time, I started watching more football and following more teams. I thought about ASU a lot, and my family always wanted me to go to school close to home. Being close to your family is a big thing in the Tongan culture. They were putting ASU in my mind all the time (smile)."

When asked to self-evaluate his skills, the lineman was humble is his reply. "My feet are the strongest part of my game," he said. "But I need to work on everything in my game. Not because I'm bad, but just because I know I can improve. I hope I redshirt so I can get a little bigger (laughs). I know I'm pretty big (6-4 310), but I've seen the defensive linemen and they're big too."

Academically speaking, Tuitu'u has some but not much work to do in order to qualify. "I'm taking ACT soon. I need two ‘B's and I'll be qualified (without improving his ACT score). But If I get a higher score on the ACT I'll be qualified as well. I got an 18, and I need to get a 19 – I'm so mad I didn't get that one point (smile)." Speaking of studies, Tuitu'u cited that reason, along with working out, as the factors hat have prevented him from attending any of the team's spring practices. He does however plan to join the team in their off-season workouts this summer.

The comfort of playing in front of family and friends can also bring on the intense pressure and feedback of loved ones. Having so many familiar eyes in the stands watching every play, good or bad, can lead to advice and reaction that at times, despite all the good intentions, do more damage than good. "I thought about it," Tuitu'u admitted. "But it also helps me to know that there's someone in the stands cheering for me and that encourages me to play better. It's good pressure, and they would make sure that I need to play better."

If his fans in the stands don't demand better, his already proven self-motivation and dedication are bound to kick in and take care of that aspect…

Recruit Profile

Name

Richard Tuitu'u

High School

Gilbert Highland

Position

OL

Height

6-4

Weight

310

Date of Birth

3/25/87

Birthplace

Phoenix, AZ

Nickname

"Tui"

Favorite TV Show

"Ultimate Fighting shows"

Favorite Movie

"Friday"

Favorite Singer/Band

"Tupac"

Favorite Food

"Tongan Food"

Favorite Drink

"Shirley Temple"

Favorite Athlete

"Warren Sapp"

Favorite Pro Team

"Kansas City Chiefs"

Person you most admire

"My mom. She did everything she could for me."

First Football Memory

"Tackling drills my freshman year. I kinda lost the tackle, and instead of tackling this kid I just lifted him and threw him on his back (smile)."

One Thing most people don't know about me

"My real name – Lisiate. That's my first name in Tongan."

Why did you choose ASU?

"Close to my family, and I really like the coaching staff."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"Hopefully I'll have a career in the NFL. If that doesn't work out, I'd like to manage my own business."

Sun Devil Source Top Stories