Twin brother Suliasi and Sitiveni Tamaivena knew they would be a package deal to go to the FBS level. The duo that specializes in pass rushing and run stopping had identical scholarship offers and recently decided on San Jose State as their destination, a school with an immediate need for pressure in the backfield.
Coming out of Mt. San Antonio College, “Siti” and “Suli” aren’t mid-year transfers, but they will have a chance to make an immediate impact next fall.
“I hear right now that they need help in their front seven,” Siti said. “That’s one of the things that got me interested really. They need help and we feel like we can be players that can come in and help right away.”
The positional need and defensive scheme at San Jose State is what sold them most on being Spartans.
“We just like the way their defense is ran and we feel like they will utilize us way more,” Suli said. “They will let us do what we’re best at out there... and we’ll have a chance at immediate playing time.”
“They want to get pressure too so that’s one of the biggest things I like about them,” Siti said. “That was the main thing, they are willing to get more pressure and that’s what me and my brother mostly do. We like to get pressure.”
Both players weigh in at about 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds and both project as outside linebackers. They featured primarily as outside linebackers in 4-3 sets at Mt. Sac, in a scheme that plays similarly to San Jose State’s.
The Spartans have had success with their secondary in recent years, but the front seven has left much to be desired, especially in the run game. The Tamaivena brothers hope to disrupt runs in the backfield, while taking advantage of the Spartans’ strong secondary.
The brothers combined for 28.5 sacks in two seasons at Mt. SAC despite each of them missing some games due to injuries.
“We’re really known for our pressure, we get a lot of pressure,” Suli said of the brothers’ strength. “San Jose State, they have the No. 1 pass defense, so all they need is some pressure and that’s what me and Siti are good at. We thought if they can hang on to the receivers for a while, that’s more time for us to get to the quarterback.”
Suli currently ranks as a three-star recruit by Scout.com while Siti is ranked as a two-star recruit. Suli even ranks in as Scout's No. 58 overall junior college recruit in its top 100 JC ranking. They have the same offers, however, as there was no doubt that they would be a package deal. Hawaii, South Alabama, Oregon State, UTEP and Washington State all offered the brothers. SJSU offers one of the better opportunities to see the field quickly.
"We just have to work for it,” Siti said. “They want us to come in and play right away, but it all depends on how we perform and if we earn that job.”
Both players also enjoyed their official visit to San Jose State on the weekend of Dec. 4. Both players felt comfortable and decided on their commitment later in the following week.
“A couple of days after we came home,” Siti said. “My brother and I were just thinking what would be our best option, and we thought San Jose State was our best option.”
The Tamaivena brothers made an impact on the recruiting trail relatively quickly in the junior college ranks after an unusual path. They attended three different high schools and were not recruited by any colleges at the next level. They considered trying the junior college route at first, but instead decided to pursue rugby together.
“We weren’t going anywhere with football,” Suli said. “So we decided to go play rugby.”
The twins' father, Levi Tamaivena, is a former Fiji national rugby star. The brothers played rugby for two years before heading to Mt. SAC and giving football another try.
“My mom kept asking us, ‘Can you guys give football one more try?’” Suli said. “We didn’t really take it serious, but two years later she asked us one more time.”
“Our mom told us she wanted us to play again,” Siti said. “I was going to stay with rugby, but my brother was up for it so I thought, why not give it a shot again.”
After their experience with rugby and a grayshirt season, they quickly proved their impact on the football field.
“Speed and tackling, I think that’s what rugby helped me out with - especially one-on-one tackling,” Siti said.
“It was all new, it’s just crazy,” Suli said. “Playing rugby and then coming back to football because our mom asked us, now we’re getting offers. It’s all new and it’s an exciting opportunity.”
The twin brothers will graduate in June and then join the team over the summer. Both plan to pursue criminal justice as their major.