When Sione Fua decided during his senior year of high school to attend Stanford, it was already established that he would be taking his Mormon mission after completing his freshman year of college. Fua played last fall as a true freshman for the Cardinal at nose tackle, providing needed depth on the defensive line.
Looking ahead to the 2007 season, the interior of Stanford's new four-man defensive line looks perilously thin. With his team in need, Fua opened his mind to the possibility of delaying the start of his two-year mission until after this fall. He would play his sophomore season and then depart for his mission. Fua spent much of this winter quarter agonizing over the immensely personal decision, which he has now answered.
"I'm leaving in the summer," Fua says. "I'm not sure if I'm leaving in June or July, but for sure I'm leaving in the summer."
"I was really torn because I really wanted to stay and help out the D-line, especially because they're short on numbers this year," he adds. "But I think that this is the best thing for me and my family - and for the team in the future."
"I always knew that this would be a decision between Sione and God," says head coach Jim Harbaugh. "That gives us one less guy on the defensive line this year but one more guy in two years."
Fua on Wednesday took the field with his Stanford teammates for the first practice of 2007, kicking off spring ball. He is one of just four healthy interior defensive linemen for the Cardinal this spring, which means only three on Stanford's roster are actively preparing for the coming season. That is tough for the team, but also difficult are these 15 spring practices for Fua as he nears his departure.
"It's really weird," the freshman admits. "I'm working hard right now, but when the time comes in the summer, I'm not going to be able to work again. It's just a weird feeling right now. We are working toward something, but personally I feel like when I'm out here, I'm sorrowful already that I'm leaving."
Wednesday also marked the first taste for Fua on the practice field of the radically different emotion and energy that Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff have brought to Stanford Football. As uplifting as that is for the freshman and his teammates, he is sampling something exciting he will soon be missing.
"It's so much different," Fua comments. "These coaches are really energetic. Everything is so fast-paced. It's one thing after another. I think this is what we need here, and this is a great change for us."
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