Move inside should help Siofele and the Cats

Like last year, Joe Siofele will spend time during the off season in Hawaii. This summer his return home is a much more joyous occasion. Last summer he buried his younger brother John, this year he welcomes a life into the world.

This story was published in the May issue of Cat Tracks Magazine Joe Siofele, leader of the Arizona defense, is going to be a father. Although welcoming an infant into the family is never easy, with long, sleepless nights laying ahead, Siofele knows he can't slack off.

"I've got a little baby boy on the way," Siofele said. "Even though my son is on the way, that is not going to stop me from training(or) from going out and running everyday. I'm going to try and cut down some weight and come back for camp in shape and be ready to go."

Football. It was supposed to be the one constant in Siofele's life. He was a Parade All-American at St. Louis High School in Honolulu and when he chose Arizona over Nebraska it was supposed to be a sign that Arizona had made it. The Cats were coming off a Holiday Bowl win over the Huskers and things looked bright.

Siofele was supposed to be the future. He was one of the most anticipated recruits in school history. He came in with Lance Briggs and the two were supposed to anchor the linebacking corps for the next four years.

It didn't happen. Briggs played his freshman year at fullback and Siofele sat out as a redshirt. Briggs made a splash his freshman year, but for Siofele things started slower.

Siofele was an outside pass rusher in high school, but looked to be an ideal NFL middle linebacker. He was big yet quick, ideal size for the pros. In addition to having ideal athleticism, Siofele has great intelligence and that made him a Whip linebacker in the Wildcats' Double Eagle Flex defense.

Despite the pedigree, Siofele had trouble cracking the starting lineup. He was behind undersized walk-on Adrian Koch at the Whip his first season and started just six games the next year when injuries cut into his playing time and effectiveness.

His junior year was supposed to the breakout season. He played well, but injuries forced the prototypical linebacker to log a lot of minutes at defensive end. Siofele was effective, but he was not in the position that best plays to his strengths.

Even more troubling was the loss of his younger brother John before the start of the season. John had worked during the off season with the Wildcats and bonded with many of Joe's teammates. He was on his way to Hawaii to play for the Warriors, another Siofele playing college football. He never got the chance.

Driving home late one night, after having too much to drink, the younger Siofele crossed the center line and crashed head first into an oncoming bus. Joe and his family were obviously devastated. Joe returned home and faced intense pressure to transfer to Hawaii and wear his brother's number.

Those closest to Siofele, and Joe himself, knew that Arizona was the place for him. Although he wouldn't take his brother's spot with the Warriors, he would honor him every time he made a play. When Siofele makes a big tackle or a sack he briefly pounds his chest and points to the sky.

"It pushes me even harder, now that I know I have to go out there and play for two guys," Siofele said before last season.

His senior season looked to be the year to put it all together. Briggs was gone, young linebacker phenom Spencer Larsen is on his Mormon Mission and the team was going to count on Siofele more than ever.

When defensive coordinator Larry Mac Duff left for a job with the 49ers, thinks looked bleak again. Little did Siofele know, but it would end up being a great change in his life. Mac Duff was gone and with him the Double Eagle Flex. In came Mike Hankwitz and his 3-4 defense that was so effective at Texas A&M. Siofele now found himself at middle linebacker, a spot he loves.

"I fit perfectly," Siofele said. "I‘ve been waiting to play in this kind of defense since I left high school." The new scheme has created a new sense of excitement around the team. The defense is unpredictable and attempts to take advantage of player's strengths. The team is quite excited to get things started.

"A lot of people underestimate this defense, saying the double eagle flex didn't work," Siofele said. "I think this defense will be a real sleeper a real surprise. People out there don't know about us, but come that first game we're going to be ready."

Not only is he excited about the chance to play in this defense on Saturdays, Siofele feels that the move to the middle could help him see the field on Sundays. With his size and speed, good season could have Siofele as a top target in the NFL Draft.

"It's way in the back of my mind right now, but I do think about it," Siofele confessed. "Yes, it does suit me. Playing this position will get me to the next level. The Double Eagle Flex helped me to be a better athlete, playing all those different positions. I incorporate all that into the middle line backer position."

Siofele still has many of the responsibilities that he had at the Whip. He's no longer on the line, but he still has a lot of responsibilities in terms of calls and getting guys lined up.

"This isn't any easier," Siofele noted. "I'm still the guy calling the defenses and setting the fronts and sending the blitzes. You could say that the whip linebacker has gotten me ready for this position."

Stories like this appear every month in Cat Tracks Magazine, the only publication devoted exclusively to University of Arizona athletics. For more information call (520) 327-0705 or take this link.


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