The Return of Vakapuna

After a minor leg injury held him out of most of the San Diego State game and all of UNLV game, Fui Vakapuna is back and ready to roll against the Air Force Falcons. Nothing is more difficult for Vakapuna than to be unable to help his teammates on the field, so the powerful tailback is thrilled at the prospect of strapping on the pads this Saturday.

Well coached and well executed, Air Force may be know for their precision strike offense, but few on Air Force's defense have had to face running backs the likes of Taufui Vakapuna. A fast, hard-hitting tailback known for wearing down defenses with his punishing running style, Vakapuna was cleared to practice today by BYU trainers.

"From what I've seen, it seems like I'm going to play," Vakapuna said with a smile. "We'll take it one day at a time leading up to Air Force, but I felt good and got a pop in. My cuts feel good, and I'm a little sore but it's nothing that I can't handle."

Vakapuna was cleared by the medical trainers with instructions not to go all out as usual, but rather to leave something in the tank as he prepares for the Air Force game.

"I went through my protocol, and the trainers said I was alright to go out and practice," Vakapuna said. "They told me to take my time and not to rush it, so I went out there and got some plays in and it felt good. It felt good getting back in there."

Vakapuna is so competitive that his mental readiness may exceed his physical condition.

"I would say that I'm 99.999-percent right now," Vakapuna said. "The competitive nature is always there, and it wouldn't matter if I was barely able to walk, I would still want to go out and play. This week it feels ten times better than last week and come game day, we'll see. Depending on how I feel during practice it will probably be the same as it was last week. It will probably be a game day decision."

Vakapuna will do whatever it takes to help the team come out of Colorado Springs with a win. If that even means sitting out of the Air Force game, or coming in and running as hard as he can, Vakapuna is more than ready and willing.

"I'll just do what ever I can for the team," he said. "If I can play, I'll play. There are things I can go out and do like stiff arm or knee someone in the head. Even if I could only run four miles per hour I'll would still go out there and try to get those four yards. It doesn't matter, even it if was against Utah I would do the same thing, don't pull me out. We'll see what happens on game day."

This is the first time Vakapuna has played Air Force since he was a true freshman during the 2002 season. Back then the Tongan tailback was a 6-foot, 210-pound speedster. Fast forward to 2006 and Vakapuna is now a 6-foot-1, 235-pound bruiser who is racking up six yards per carry.

"Air Force plays with heart," said Vakapuna. "They go out there and hustle and play with effort, but I think with the talent we have on our team, we can exceed them if we can hustle and play with the effort they play with.

"I'm sure they've seen film on us but it's not like actually playing the game. We'll just take it one play at a time when game day comes."

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