Lee Foliaki's road to Texas A&M

Texas A&M's Lee Foliaki began his collegiate football career at a junior college in Kansas, but Aggie fans are thankful that he now calls College Station, TX home. Foliaki recovered a game-winning fumble by Colorado's Bobby Purify during the Aggies' 29-26 overtime victory over the Buffs.

The junior LB spoke to the media on Tuesday.

Did a lot of your friends call you Friday night after the game?

Lee Foliaki: "I didn't know they had replayed it on ESPN, but everybody from back home called and said they had seen me, and people back from Kansas who I went to school with called, and I couldn't believe it. I'm still trying to catch my breath."

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Take us through from being recruited out of high school, to being recruited as a JUCO, to ending up here.

"In high school I used to play running back too. When Slocum was here I was recruited to play running back. And I think A&M and—I can't think of the other school—A&M and another school were the only schools recruiting me to play running back. The rest were recruiting me to play linebacker. I had liked A&M growing up, because my cousin [Semisi Heimuli] had played o-line for Texas A&M. So he kind of had an influence on me liking A&M. Growing up, I didn't really think about college until probably about my senior year when I realized I could probably go to college. By then it was almost too late—which it was, because I ended up having to go to junior college. "

"Signing with Colorado, they placed me in Kansas at my junior college, Butler County. They expected to have me out in three semesters, and they gave me a whole lot of hours. So me being out there—I was homesick that whole first year—so I didn't do too good. So I had to repeat it. I took the rest of that year…and I guess things just worked out. I didn't go back to playing with them [Colorado], I ended up signing with A&M. I just wanted to come home. A&M was probably the only school I wanted to play for, so I came back to Texas."

Were they disappointed? Did Colorado try to get you?

"They did, but I just felt like they didn't show me enough love, because they had placed me out there, and as far as them keeping in contact with me…I don't know. When I went out there, I was like, ‘I'm going to try to take care of business. I'm going to go back to Colorado.' But I felt like they weren't doing their part. It came to it that I just wanted to come back here."

So that wasn't much love—sticking you out in the middle of Kansas?

"Oh man…I was out there in the land of the Wizard of Oz, man. Butler County is in El Dorado, Kansas, north of Wichita…it was real tough. To me it was like a step down from high school, ‘cause at my high school it [football] was big time. I went from a big stadium playing on turf to going out there playing backyard football. They were excited to have about 8,000 at their games. That's probably like a scrimmage here in Texas."

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How's conditioning been? I believe two games ago Coach [Franchione] said you'd played 82 plays. I don't know how many you played this past week, but it was a lot. How's it been conditioning-wise, playing that much?

"I guess I'm in good shape, because when I'm in the game I really don't think about being tired. I might have my hands on my hips, but don't let that fool you, ‘cause I always do that when I'm out on the field. I just try not to think about being tired."

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I think Coach Torbush said that from a technique standpoint, you're still kind of getting there. But from an instinct standpoint—that's one thing you've always had: the instinct to get to the ball and make a play. Is that something innate in you? Have you always had that? How long have you noticed that you've been able to figure you what's going to happen before it happens?

"I don't even know. I guess it's just me trying to get to the ball and just trying to make plays. ‘Cause when I'm not there, I'm always thinking, ‘man, I need got to try to make a play soon.' And if it happens, it happens. As far as everything else, I'm still trying to learn everything and trying to adapt to being a Division I football player. But I guess instincts can't be coached, so I don't know where it comes from. Probably my mom [laughs]."

Why your mom?

"Probably because she's the most athletic-crazy one in the family. My dad's just real calm and kicked back. So I guess I get it from my mom."

You said most athletic and crazy?

"Yeah. She's kind of crazy. [laughs]. No, not like "bad crazy," like the "good crazy."

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Did you see guys that went out to Butler County that decided they didn't want to play anymore? I guess what I'm asking is, does junior college kind of serve to filter out guys who just don't want to play?

"Yeah, I think that in junior college you've just got to be real determined, because not everybody wants to go to junior college. If you feel like you know you're supposed to be somewhere else, you just got to go through it. You've just got to be determined and keep fighting. I've seen a whole bunch of good players come through who just couldn't handle it, and they quit. It was easy for me to look at it like, ‘That's probably the easy way out.' But you've just got to stick with it."

Why did you stick with it?

"I didn't want to be known as a failure. I felt like I was being looked at as a failure when I had to go to junior college out of high school. And I just wanted to…I guess people still doubted me when I was in junior college, like ‘Oh, he's not going to make it,' or whatever. I had to get my mind right and stick with it, so I could prove everybody wrong. So now I'm here and everybody's just trying to be friendly now."

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Are you still in contact with your cousin much?

"Semisi [Heimuli]? Yeah, he's playing arena ball in California. He's lost a whole lot of weight. When he was here he was about 300, but he's about 270 now playing fullback. I'll tell you what, arena football's crazy, too."

He was one of the most intimidating guys I've ever been around in my entire life, just looking at him. He's a mean-looking guy. He's not a mean guy, but man…

"You might still recognize him in the face, but he's slim now."

Did you have a close relationship growing up?

"Yeah, we stayed right next to each other, right down the street."

So did he have an influence in you wanting to come here?

"When I came home for Christmas after our championship game at Butler, he came to the house and said, ‘Here, talk to some of the coaches. And everybody was wanting me to come to A&M. And he came over the night Coach Fran and them came over to my house, and that's when I made my choice. I said, ‘I'm going to come here.'"


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