(Courtesy UO Athletic Department)
Salave’a comes to Oregon after spending the previous five seasons at Washington State, working the first three as defensive line coach before adding assistant head coach to his title prior to the 2015 season. His unit showed vast improvement in each of his five seasons in both pass rush and rush defense, finishing the 2016 season 29th in the country in run defense (134.23 ypg). Over the last two seasons, three of the Cougars’ defensive linemen earned second-team All-Pac-12 Conference recognition under Salave’a.
Prior to joining the Cougars, Salave’a spent a year at Arizona, his alma mater, as defensive line coach, signing on with the Wildcats in time for preparations for the 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl.
Salave’a began his coaching career in 2008 at San Jose State for his former college coach, Dick Tomey, working for two seasons as the defensive line coach. Salave’a made an immediate impact in his first coaching stint as he mentored Jarron Gilbert, the NCAA leader in tackles for loss and the Chicago Bears’ first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Before beginning his coaching career, Salave’a enjoyed a nine-year NFL career after being drafted out of Arizona in the fourth round of the 1998 NFL Draft by Tennessee. Salave’a spent five years with the Titans, split 2003 with the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers and finished his career with a three-year stint with the Washington Redskins before retiring after the 2006 season. He played 100 NFL games, making 28 starts, while totaling 82 tackles, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He appeared in Super Bowl XXXIV for the Titans.
Salave’a lettered at Arizona as a defense tackle from 1994-97, earning first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 1997, second-team honors in 1996, and honorable mention recognition in 1995. He was also the team captain in 1996. Salave’a totaled 157 career tackles for the Wildcats, all as an interior lineman, with 43.5 tackles for loss and 21.5 sacks. He led the team in sacks and tackles for loss in both 1996 and 1997, and in forced fumbles in 1994 and 1996.
A native of Leone, American Somoa, Salave’a has been one of the territory’s foremost football ambassadors promoting the game among Samoan youth, including founding the Joe Salave’a Foundation in 2001 to help introduce the game and strengthen its appeal. The foundation specializes in free football clinics for youngsters in American Samoa and Hawaii. His work was recognized by Congressman Eni Faleomavaega in a 2005 White House ceremony hosted by President George W. Bush to celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.