The Man inside the Beast

Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Simi Fili goes from a thoughtful son and brother off the field to an angry animal on it. Teams along the Wasatch front know Fili's unpleasant side very well, but they rarely see the light-hearted side of Cottonwood High School's giant defensive tackle.

"Before my games I would go to Hogle Zoo and just watch how the Gorillas would act," said Simi Fili with a laugh. "They're so big and powerful and can move quickly for their size. I would go and study them and try to be like them on the football field. One time, I remember watching a smaller, quicker monkey take a banana from one of the gorillas and ran away with it. The gorilla jumped up and chased down the monkey and grabbed him. He took back his banana, threw down the monkey, ate the banana and then threw the banana peel at the monkey's head.

"That's how I want to be when I'm on the football field. I want to throw you down and then instead of beating you with a banana, beat you with my own helmet or maybe even yours. That's how I want to be, I want to be a gorilla on the field. I have posters of King Kong on my wall and I love watching that part in the movie where he fights those three tyrannosaurs rex dinosaurs at the same time. I might start watching that before my games now to get me ready."

Fili takes football very serious. In fact, he is giving up a family vacation to Hawaii over the summer to concentrate more on football. It will be a big sacrifice for Fili because his family is extremely close and does a lot together.

"My family is a really close family," said Fili. "We always have family conferences to discuss what is happening. We're in the process of adopting a little seven year old palangi [Caucasian] boy, so our family is trying to adopt him and he'll be my new little brother.

"I'm canceling a lot of trips this year because me and my brother are going to try and concentrate on football over this summer. We were supposed to go to Hawaii on a trip this year, but I just told my parents to go ahead without me. They're going on vacation and I have to stay focused. I can't be going to Hawaii and then come back all out of shape because of all the luau's I ate at."

So does that mean more football camps, more weight lifting and training?

"My coaches are planning for a lot of camps," said Fili. "I'll probably be heading to around five or six camps at some of the schools over the summer. After the three-week period where there's an open window for coaches to call me and to come and talk to me, I'll see which schools I'll go do my camps at. I also need to figure what camp falls on what day so I can also schedule around that. I have some cousins coming from Hawaii and they want me to go with them to BYU's summer camp. He's bringing in some other kids too with him from Hawaii."

Fili is hearing from several football powerhouses. Recently he returned home from a visit to Oklahoma State with Cottonwood High School Assistant Coach Scott Cate. Coach Cate's son Alex Cate signed a letter of intent to play for Oklahoma State.

"Not too long ago, I went to Oklahoma State," said Fili. "I just loved the trip down there and it was really nice down there. When I was down there it was just kind of a different kind of environment. They really concentrate on football and they have tutors that actually get paid a salary, so you're tutor will always be there because he is getting paid instead of volunteer work.

"When I went down there they had a beautiful institution. It was really nice and they said they would let me go on my mission for two years. A few schools have told me that I can go on my mission like Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Arizona, Arizona State, BYU and Utah. I haven't talked to the other schools about that yet. The schools that will let me go on my mission are the one's I'm going to go with."

On top of offers from Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Arizona, ASU, BYU and Utah, Fili also has offers from Nebraska, Oregon and Oregon State. However as Fili said, he is only interested in those schools that will allow him to serve a mission. He has three things he is looking at in determining what is most important to him and serving a mission is first and foremost.

"Basically the first thing is if they are willing to let me serve a mission," said Fili. "That's the one big thing that I have to go and do. The second thing is where I'm going to live. You know, what the climate is and where I'm going to live for four or five years. How the dorms are if I'm going to be crammed in. I don't really like that. I'm not really used to being crammed in and that's one thing I'm going to look at because it's just me and my younger brother and my adopted brother and that's it. I also want to look at how the academics of the program are. College is no joke, and academics are tough enough but when you play football on top of that it's even harder, so I want to check out what kinds of tools the programs have to help their football players with academics."

Fili feels that serving a mission is one way in which he can personally be a greater influence as a football player. In the recent past, some high profile LDS athletes have made it publicly known that they will forgo serving a mission in order to play at high profile football colleges. Fili feels this sends the wrong message to kids, and by putting aside college and football for two years, he hopes he can show what is most important to those who might think otherwise.

"I hope I can be a good influence on kids who are on the bubble," Fili said. "If there is a kid who is thinking he should or shouldn't go, I hope I can be a positive influence in helping him to lean more towards going on a mission. We need all the young men out there to spread the word, you know. I'm willing to sacrifice my time in playing football to help other people and serve the Lord.

"That's one thing I want to do because our Prophet needs help. There's not as many young men serving missions as there should be because they're not worthy, and because they put other things ahead of going on a mission. I think because I'm a big person people might think, ‘Whoa, if this guy can leave college and leave football just to come talk to us, it must be a big deal.' I think I can have a positive influence and be a good role model before I play football."

Fili is willing to go wherever he is called, but if it were up to him, he would end up somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic.

"When I go on a mission, I want to go to Africa," said a laughing Fili. "That way I can come back skinny. I have a friend that is going to England and that would be pretty cool too because you could play rugby on your P-day's.

"I don't want to go New Zealand. I don't want to go to Tonga or Samoa because I'll leave at 315 and come back at 500 pounds! All those people who go to New Zealand come back much bigger than they're supposed to be. I would come back and try to run the forty and die."

Simi also has another reason for wanting to serve a mission in Africa.

"I have a couple of friends that are Mormon who are black," said Fili. "They just barely moved to Utah from Africa because their family wanted to be where the Prophet is. They wanted to be close to the prophet they said. They left everything; they didn't have enough money to bring their things from Africa so they left it all there and didn't bring anything. The only things they had was enough money for was the plane ticket to come to Utah and what they had on was all they brought with them. They just had enough money to come to Utah and that was it. They're just the coolest people man. They were able to get some money up and they all moved into a small apartment together."

Aside from preparing himself for his mission, Fili is also preparing for football. Recently, the 6-foot-4, 313-pound Fili was involved in the Utah power lifting competition where he faired very well.

"Last week I went to a weight lifting competition and I won my overall weight in the bench, squat and clean," Fili said. "In squat I got 550 and on my last squat I was going for 615 but didn't quite get it. I was going, going, going for about a minute but couldn't quite get it up. I started feeling like I was going to black out but I was told 615 was the record. My bench was 440 and my power clean was 290. I got 315 up but I didn't do it in one motion so I had to do it over again.

"I was going to go for the bench press record and was told it was at 445 pounds, the record Isley Filiaga has. I told them that I wanted to go for 450 and they put 450 on the bar. I was ready to do that and then they said, ‘No, no, no the state record is 475!' I was like ‘What!', so being it was that high I said I might as well and put 480 on the bar. I got it half way and hit that plateau and couldn't get it past that so I just benched 440.

Fili remembers watching Filiaga perform at BYU's summer camps when he was younger.

"I used to go to BYU's camps when I was little and I would always be with [Isley]," said Fili. "I was in the sixth and seventh grade and I would always go with the high school kids because I was always bigger than my age group."

Fili also remembers watching another BYU player succeed on the football field while in high school.

"I love Fui [Vakapuna], man," said Fili. "That's one dude I followed. We both went to East [High School] but he went there when I was in little league. On Fridays we used to come up and watch his games. One thing I learned from Fui is how to be a humble football player. Even though he was always the star he would always go up to the little kids and ask, ‘How you doing kids?' He would show interest in them instead of trying to get the kids to be interested in him because he was the star. That's one thing I've applied to myself, so when I see the little league kids playing I'll go say hello and see how they're doing. I love Fui man, he's cool.

"I haven't really talked to Fui about football at BYU. I have talked to Kyle [Luekenga] though and he said he really likes it at BYU. He said at BYU, they are more focused than at other schools. He said he went down to UNLV and all they wanted to do was party after practice and weren't very focused because they had other things on their minds. He said BYU is a very disciplined program."

Fili would like to get his grades up a bit this semester. BYU is actively recruiting Fili and Assistant Coach Steve Kaufusi has come inquiring about the talented D-linemen.

"I'm just trying to keep my grades up and prepare for the ACT," said Fili. "My GPA is a 2.8 and I just need to turn some stuff in and that will bring it to a 3.0. Steve [Kaufusi] came to my school last week on Monday. He's cool man and his little brother [Jason Kaufusi] coaches me at Cottonwood. He's pretty cool, and my dad and him went to the same mission."

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