One last home game for Manumaleuna

Eathyn Manumaleuna came from Anchorage, Alaska and played his final year of high school football at Timpview High School. He went on to play for the Cougars as a true freshman in 2007 and started every game at nose guard prior to serving a mission. He returned in 2010 and become a primary force on BYU's defensive line. On Saturday, he'll play his last home game at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Over the years Eathyn Manumaleuna has become a staple feature of BYU's defensive line. It's going to be strange to not to see a jersey with his name on the back of it come game day next year.

In fact, this Saturday will be the last time one will see Manumaleuna take the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

"It hasn't hit me yet, especially since I haven't been practicing all week because I've been under the weather," said Manumaleuna with a laugh. "So, it doesn't feel like I'm getting ready for a game, but I'm sure it will hit me. I didn't think this day would come at all. As you can tell, my nickname is Grandpa, so it hasn't hit me yet but I'm sure it will."

When it's all over, Manumaleuna will reflect upon his BYU football career and miss many things, including the whole experience of game day at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

"The atmosphere is just different on game day and you can feel it with the crowd and the fans," he said. "This year was different with the walk and it was just cool and amazing for those guys to come out and support us that way. Just being in the stadium with the stands full and when you make a good play, it's loud. I'll miss those things."

When out on the football field, Manumaleuna has one ritual he always takes part in.

"The thing about me is when I'm out there I always try and see where my wife and my family is sitting," he said. "That's one of the main things I always try and do. If they see me trying to look, they'll wave as hard as they can so I can see them. Usually I can catch them out, but that's one of the things I'll remember [about] playing at this stadium."

Manumaleuna will also miss playing alongside his teammates and friends.

"Well, last year when I got hurt I was sad, not because I was hurt but because most of the guys that were seniors I wouldn't be able to play again with," he said. "That was one of the toughest things for me when I went down last year, and it's kind of the same thing this year. You know, I didn't get hurt, but it's kind of the last run with these guys: Daniel Sorensen, Kyle Van Noy, Uani Unga. Man, those guys, it's been a privilege playing with those guys because they committed themselves to the program. They worked really hard and they prepared themselves each week for games [so well] that it's just fun to play with them during game day. Just their spirit, their mentality, their personalities – I'm going to miss that from those guys."

The Cougar teammates like to playfully give each other a hard time as they battle together out on the field.

"I think last year, my first year, playing with Kyle [Van Noy] in the Notre Dame game, I got a sack that game," said fellow defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi. "I didn't really do too much. Like, we have plays where Kyle might sacrifice himself for me, or I might sacrifice myself for him so he can make a play.

"He came up to me right after that play and said, 'Yup, you owe me now one too.' I was like, 'Yeah, you're right, I do.' It's good."

When asked if Van Noy had made any sacrificial plays on his behalf, Manumaleuna joked in the negative with a jealous tone.

"No, he's never really sacrificed for me," Manumaleuna said with a chuckle. "You know, and it's fine. I'll take all the guys for that guy."

What began as a slight chuckle turned into a louder burst of laughter. Manumaleuna was kidding as though to take all the credit for Van Noy's successful career.

"I'll take them all for that guy," he said while laughing. "No, you know, I just try and do my job. I don't want to say who sacrificed for someone. I just tried to do my job."

When asked if there was a specific game from his BYU career that stood out to Manumaleuna, he had trouble picking one from the many he's played over the years.

"My senior season this year has been memorable. Just having the blessing of coming back and playing another year was a blessing itself for me, so I don't have a specific game."

Following Saturday's game, Manumaleuna will receive his BYU Cougar blanket along with all the other seniors. He could have run out last year, as it wasn't guaranteed that he would receive another year of eligibility, but he declined.

"No, they gave me an option last year," he said. "Last year they gave me an option to go last year or come back this year, so I just chose this year. They pulled my name out for this year."

On second thought, he kind of wishes he did after seeing former defensive tackle teammate Simote Vea receive two blankets. Vea was honored on one Senior Night before then receiving another year of eligibility and being honored the following year as well.

"Simote got it twice!" Manumaleuna said while laughing. "He got two blankets!"

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