Tuiasosopo on Joining Staff

Going into Spring Practice, UCLA's new outside linebacker and special teams coach, Mike Tuiasosopo, talks about his coaching history and his role on the UCLA staff...


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On his background:
I graduated in 1991 and so happened that Danny Andrews, who played tailback here, we grew up together, elementary, junior high and high school. It's good to be home. Banning High School. We were quite a powerhouse team back then. I stay in touch with them. I came out with Danny Alo, Danny Andrews, that was the 1-2 punch, that was my era. There have been a lot of great Bruins that were Banning Pilots, including our AD (Dan Guerrero), Freeman McNeil. I was a grad assistant at University of Pacific with Walt Harris. The great coaching heritage that came out of UoP is impressive. Pete Carroll, Greg Robinson. Then I had a chance to be a head coach at Berkeley HS in the mid-90's. Then I went to coach with John L. Smith at Utah State and we won a Big West Championship and I coached the Big West defensive player of the year. From there, I went to Nevada, and for three years, I was really fortunate to join up with Urban Meyer his first year at Utah. That was a hard situation to leave. When the opportunity came, and I wasn't looking for the opportunity, but when the opportunity came to coach in the Pac-12 at the time, I was interested. Having grown up in the Pac-12, watching UCLA from the end zone at the Coliseum when they shared the stadium, watching my cousin Manu (Tuiasosopo) when he played here. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I had an opportunity to coach for Mike Stoops, with Mike Stoops. I coached with him for seven years. That was really good for me and my family. I learned a lot of football from Mike. I have great respect for Mike, I have great respect for Urban Meyer. But being with a defensive head coach, I get the same feelings here at UCLA with Jim Mora. I had seven years of it, I'm used to it. I get it. I understand and there are a lot of similarities when it comes to ball. And as human beings, they're great people.

On how he and Jim Mora connected:
I was doing an NFL Bill Walsh internship with the 49ers in 1997. I was coaching at Utah State and thought this was a great opportunity to learn. And Jim had just come over there from the Saints, his first year with the 49ers. That was my first time meeting him. It's really cool working with him all these years.

On getting connected with Mike Stoops:
With Mike Stoops, it was Bo Pelini. Five years later, I did an internship with the Green Bay Packers, and Bo was the linebackers coach. I had no idea he had recommended me for the DL job with Mike. So we're at the coaching convention in Orlando and Bo tells me he had recommended me to Mike and Mark (Stoops) and I had no idea who Mike and Mark were. So that's kind of how that happened.

On Colorado:
I then went to Colorado and coached with my dear friend Jon Embree. His son, Taylor, used to play here. And he's just a very, very dear friend and I wanted to go help him. We had just built the thing at Arizona. You've been around the Pac-12 forever, you understand, we were really close to going to the Rose Bowl in 2009. We had quite a team. There were some unforgettable moments. But some really memorable moments too. It was so gratifying to built it to that place and being on the cusp.

On coaching being a small world:
It's interesting, because when I was the coach at Berkeley HS, Jon (Embree) recruited us, when he was an assistant at Colorado. Jon said to me that if he ever got a head job, he would hire me. That was 1996. In 2010, he calls me in December 2010, and I'm leaving the locker room. He calls me as I'm in the locker room, getting ready for the team meeting boarding the bus before we play our rivals. He told me "are your ready?" And I asked him if I'm ready for what? And he said "I told you I'd hire" when he got a head coaching job. And I'm like where? He said Colorado. Jon was always a standup guy and for him after all those years to remember that. It was hard, and i had just been through a process of building, and been on the cusp.

On being back in Los Angeles:
To be back home, I pinch myself every day. I told Coach Mora, I don't need a map here, I'm home. In many ways, it's a dream fulfilled. I've been in coaching for 26 years. It's just unbelievable to me. And to be doing something other than coaching defensive line is exciting for me. Coaching outside linebackers, special teams. Someone who hasn't done that will look at it as a threat. I'm not threatening. I'm here at a time where we're on the cusp of something special. I love coming to work every day. I love the men and the coaching staff. They have something going really special here, I know that. I want to add value to add that.

On Jeff Ulbrich:
I had met him before. It's been wonderful. Jeff has been great, I feel grateful and blessed, but he has embraced me and all the guys, all the coaches have. I feel welcome and feel like they have embraced me.

On if he's watched film on his players:
I've watched tape, at least from a special teams standpoint to see who we're dealing with here. I had a parent the other day visit, I said, 'you know what part of the beauty of being the new guy, is he has a clean slate.' I know nothing. I see no evil, I hear no evil. I feel like I need to get a handle on the scheme and on the personnel, from a schematic standpoint and talent. Those outside linebackers are pretty good.

On the pass rush after losing Anthony Barr and Cassius Marsh:
I've seen enough on the tape to know we've got guys here. I've seen enough. Being at other Pac-12 schools, there ain't a prettier team coming out to play than UCLA. When I saw what Coach Mora did when he first got here, he took them to the desert. That's when I said, things are changing in Bruinville. Things were different. That was a heck of a move. But back to the new guy, clean slate, take the coaching, work hard and improve every day. We'll see. All i know is in all my years of coaching, the best player plays. You know who knows who the best players are? The players. They'll know. If you want something bad enough, you'll do something about it.

On coaching special teams:
Everybody has a role to pitch in, whether it's a big role or small role, but the majority of it will be me and then Coach Brick ain't letting the kickoff team go. As he should. I've watched enough tape to know these guys bring it every kick. I have piecemealed (special teams), but not at this level. I'm not sure that's not the most exciting part for me. I love it. The passion alone, I'm excited to coach that part of it and take pride and ownership in it. In my eyes, they've done an amazing job here. Coach Ulbrich has done an amazing job. And it shows. It's on tape. My job is to take that and continue to elevate it. That's my job. I invite the challenge, I look forward to it and improving it and making it better.

On the recruiting staff:
These guys get after it as coaches and recruiters. I approach things the same way. I always feel like if you don't recruit every day and don't get after it every day in college coaching. Whatever the case may be, every day, you've got to do something. To me, recruiting is being thorough and being persistant. It's relating to people. Some college coaches don't like recruiting. There are a lot of pro coaches who wont go back to college for that very reason. I love it because you get to relate to people. A lot of people know my family, and as I've told Coach, I'm recruiting from Bellingham to Tijuana and every where in between. Having been in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, I've been in all of those places. I was joking with Coach, I know which schools to go into the front door, I know which schools to go into the back door. It's all relationships. Coaches ain't going to help you if you're a jerk. But it's all relationships. I enjoy the challenge of recruiting.

On his recruiting area:
I have parts of L.A. I grew up in the South Bay, so I'll have a great part of the South Bay. I'll have a big piece of the Inland Empire, but then I'll have Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii. Hawaii is work now. People know to get work done, you have to take the red eye. And red eyes will shorten your life. You're either flying at 6 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon, but if you get everything done, you can fly out on a 10pm red eye.

On getting out during the evaluation period:
This is a different deal altogether, I'm telling you. Having been at other Pac-12 schools, it's another situation. It's just different. Coach Mora and his staff has made UCLA into the national conversation. In two years. It's a whole other level in my eyes. In the kids, the players, the student-athletes eyes. I've had coaches everywhere in those areas, just saying, I'm so excited you're at UCLA, I'm so happy to see you in spring recruiting. It's just different. It feels different. When you're at the other places, to get in on an L.A. kid, man. The product, right here, right now, it's hard to beat that product, and that's a credit to Coach Mora and his staff. It's like I was telling one of our players yesterday, 'where do we go from here?' Ask yourself that at spring break. I'm just fired up to be a part of it. As I told Coach when he hired me, I'm going to repay you with good hard work, and that's how i feel.


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