Exit Interview: Travis Tofi

In the latest installment of our Exit Interview series, WeAreSC sits down with Travis Tofi to hear a wide variety of thoughts on his USC career.

Congratulations on the Rose Bowl victory, Travis, and thanks for being here with us today.

Thank you.

Talk about your decision to come to USC.

My decision wasn't a very hard one because Utah and USC were the main schools recruiting me. It was a no brainer. USC was a better school and it is known for their big football program. I know most of my football idols such as Junior Seau and other football players came from this program.

How was the transition from living in a village in the American Samoa with a population of 500, where you were planting bananas, to coming out here to Los Angeles?

It was totally different. It's a different lifestyle. Coming out here is a dream come true. The kids back home wake up and do yard work, and dream about coming out here. Most families grow their own fruit, have pigs in their yards. Back home it is more relaxed than out here. Everything here is based on time. The only problem for me was missing my family.

Your brother Pooch played at Louisiana Tech and now coaches at your old high school. Are there any tips he gave you while you were playing at USC?

He's my mentor. He's the one that got me here. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be playing football. When he was playing in high school, he was the all-star, and everybody liked him at school. He graduated in '95 and I graduated in '02. He came back in 2001 and told me how to be prepared for the college life. He kept me straight. He was a big role model for me.

You've never been back to the American Samoa since going to USC. Why not?

There were a couple of reasons. Financial reasons is one. We're not poor but we're not rich. Another reason why I haven't been back is because if I go back, I'll probably never return. My family has come out to see some of my games. They came to the Arkansas game last year. I also have an Aunt out here in Barstow and so whenever I go there, it feels like home. My Aunt is like my grandmother.

Talk about that well known bond that exists between the Polynesians on the team.

It's special group of people on the team. We understand each other. We know how our culture is. I'm close to Fili, Rey, and Kaluka. We all hang out and we're very comfortable around each other.

You've had a lot of different position coaches in Ed Orgeron, Jethro Frankin, and Nick Holt. How would you compare their styles and your development under each?

Coach O made me a better player. He was hard on me with everything. He made me a better player when he left. He doesn't like it when you walk. Coach Jethro taught us a lot of technique. He's a little more relaxed than Coach O. He's a players' coach. He hangs out with the players. Coach Holt understands how the players are. He pushes you to play hard. He'll tell to do a move and tell us how hard it is but he knows that we can do it. Off the field he'll talk to you just like a normal person.

You recorded your first sack against Hawaii. How special was that for you?

It was very special. It was my first play in college football. I had a lot of family that came out to that game. It was so exciting, I just remember going after him. I remember growing up I've always liked Hawaii. They were looking at me during my junior year in high school. I thought I was going to end up going to Hawaii. And then my senior year, they stopped looking at me. The sack was significant because it was like, that's what you get. I then saw the same Hawaii position coach that was recruiting later on that night and he told me he wished they [Hawaii] had gotten me.

How is it like regularly going directly up against Ryan Kalil during practice?

He's one of the best I've ever gone up against. He's a good football player. He's strong, he's fast, and he works hard. Every time we do a pass rush, he hits so hard. It's almost like when you're going against him, you know you're going to lose. He's one of the best to go up against. When Deuce was here I used to go up against Deuce.

Who are you close with on the D-Line?

All of them. When I first got here, they made me feel part of the family. They invited me to hang out and I felt immediately accepted.

When you were new at USC, was there an older player who took you under his wing?

Lenny Vandermade. He would invite me to hang out if I had no where to go. He taught me a lot of the stuff here. On the D-Line, Omar Nazel and Mike Patterson were there for me. I stayed with Mike Patterson my freshmen year.

What is your favorite play you were involved in?

I would say that sack against Hawaii.

Your favorite game.

Probably the Notre Dame game two years ago. It was great to be part of an instant classic game.

What memories do you have about Mario Danelo?

(Smiles) I had class with him, and sometimes he slept in class... I remember one time when he went to a Halloween party wearing just the American flag. (Laughs.)

How do you expect the D-line to do next year?

I expect them to be the best. We have so much talent, I think they'll have a good year. All of them.

Are you going to graduate?

Yes I will. I will be graduating with a degree in Sociology.

After football, what are your future plans?

I'm kind of undecided but I know my heart tells me to go back to America Samoa like how my brother did and coach there. For my brother, when he graduated, our dad was pretty sick and so it was easy for him to decide to come back. [Our dad] passed away in '03. I wanted to go back during that season but [my brother] told me to stay because everything would be okay and that my dad would've wanted me to stay at USC. I plan to go back during this summer.

Are you still taking any classes?

I'm actually done with classes. All I'm doing is just working out and working. I work at a mortgage company. My schedule is basically just waking up, working out, and going to work. I'm doing it because I need the money. It's not a bad idea to do when I am done with football. I'd also love to be a coach or teacher when I'm done.

What are you doing to train for the NFL combines?

I'm just working out right now over here with the strength coaches and with all the other seniors.

Are there any last words that you would like to say to the Trojan Community?

It's been fun and it's great to be a USC Trojan. I'm an alumnus. It's crazy.


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