Hired in late January to assist on the defensive line, Nua comes to Navy via BYU, where his previous duties included assisting a defense that ranked 13th in the country last season. A 2005 graduate of BYU, Nua not only brings college playing and coaching experience to Navy, but also takes insight gleaned from a four year NFL career to the halls of Annapolis. I caught up with the former All-Mountain West selection this past week, and found out how the first month on the job has been, and what he's looking forward to working on this spring.
How are things going? How has the transition to the new coaching staff been so far?
Shaun Nua: Things are going good. I'm just trying to learn our defense over here, and getting familiar with the vocabulary and stuff.
I read that coach Ken Niumatalolo came out to Provo last spring to observe practice. Was that the first time you met him? Is he an individual you've looked up to given your shared Pacific Island heritage?
SN:That was the second time I met him. The first time I met him was three, maybe four years ago when we came out here as a staff. It was my first year at BYU and we visited the Naval Academy and the staff here as a defense.
No question (I looked up to him.) I remember the first time I saw him a few years back on a sideline, and I remember thinking, ‘man, he looks Polynesian.' As they talked about him throughout the game I found out he is Polynesian, and he instantly became a role model for me and I loved that he was a head football coach at a major program – especially at an academy like Navy. I was very impressed and proud more than anything just to see him do his thing, and now I'm just very honored to be a part of that.
Now that you're on board at Navy, is there a hope that there will be an added focus of expanding the program's recruiting interest in the Pacific Islands and amongst the "Polynesian pipeline" that BYU had cultivated for several years?
SN:If we find tough and smart Polynesian kids we'd love to have them here, but in the words of putting an extra emphasis on it, I don't know if those are the right words to say. I don't know if it's that I would go out of my way to find just Polynesian kids, but I'll use whatever connections I have with BYU or the (San Francisco) 49ers to – if they know of qualified kids – to hopefully get them here. We just want to get the best kids here to make us the best football program.
So you won't be assigned to recruiting duties in the Pacific? Which part of the country will you be covering?
SN:(Laughs). Well I'd love for my recruiting area to be American Samoa, but I'll be recruiting Florida. At BYU we had a coach that recruited Florida, but I know a coach there who is a Polynesian kid who is a head coach in Gainesville. That's the most familiarity I have with it – I've never recruited Florida at all.
How has your NFL experience helped you as a coach?
SN:It's helping a lot. It's what I go to when I need something. I was very, very lucky and fortunate to be in the same meeting rooms with coach Dick Lebeau and John Mitchell and Bill Cowher's whole staff in Pittsburgh. I'm a product of those guys and those guys have a good record of themselves. I'm a product of them. I didn't play that much in the NFL but the times that I had in the meeting rooms with them and learning about schemes and techniques and fundamentals of football -- and the organization of stuff -- to me that is precious and invaluable. It's helping me right now. Every time we see certain things I go back to my days over there. It's just been huge for me right now.
Have you met any of your players at Navy yet?
SN:Oh yea. I watch them work out and I've met with them. They're great young men and I'm excited to work with them.
Both BYU and Navy stress a high-character attitude for their players. Are you finding the Navy players to be very similar to your former players in Provo?
SN:They're very, very similar. Over here it demands a lot from each kid, and that's like I told you before about having to find the right kids to come here. It is very similar to BYU in that you've got to find high character guys who are able to live with the honor code that BYU has. It's similar here with the Naval Academy and its own honor code. I get to coach to best kids.
What's been the biggest adjustment so far with coming to Navy?
SN:Just learning the defense here, vocabulary wise. And just getting around (laughs). The roads are very confusing. In Provo you have the mountains in the east and if you're lost you know the mountains are in the east. Over here you can use the water I guess, but there are hundreds of bays that can be misleading. Other than that it has been great.
Nua Getting Settled at Navy
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