New Coug DL Ekuale a shock to the system

PULLMAN–New Coug DL Daniel Ekuale has had quite a year already – it's a relief just to have his feet planted firmly on the ground at WSU. It was a scramble to get his paperwork in and move to the States from American Samoa, and to better learn the English language. But the greatest tumult of all came after he shocked the living daylights out of Coug DL coach Joe Salave'a with a rapid weight gain.

Life has been busy for Cougar freshman d-lineman Daniel Ekuale out of Pago Pago. Rated three-stars and the 92nd ranked defensive tackle in the land by this past class, Ekuale said he's not sure what position he'll be lining up at this fall at Washington State.

"I'll be on the defensive line," said Ekuale, still learning the English language. "Coach hasn't told me exactly what he wants me to do. I don't know yet."

Ekuale had been a presumptive nose tackle and was listed by at 290 pounds. But it sounds like Salave'a is strongly considering spotting him at the left or right defensive end positions, at least for 2013.

Ekuale said that with his position not yet known, his weight has gone on an extreme yo-yo ride in recent months.

"When Coach Joe came to Samoa for the first time to see me, I was at 242 pounds," Ekuale said. "He wanted me to play nose tackle."

Ekuale thus began the transformation to become a force in the middle for the Cougar defense – 242 pounds wasn't going to cut it at the nose. He put on weight, rapidly.

Too rapidly, as it turned out.

"By the time I took the SAT's earlier this year… I was up to 292 pounds," Ekuale said. "When Coach Joe saw me he was shocked."

Shocked, that is, in a negative way.

Ekuale said Salave'a told him to start running and lose weight. After all the work to put on the bulk, Ekuale now had to take it off.

AFTER SOME TIME in Seattle and the state of Washington, Ekuale returned to the islands.

But Ekuale didn't have a phone after he returned to Pago Pago and communication remained an issue between him and the coaches at Washington State. The only mandate he had was to drop some pounds. And so he did.

Finally, June arrived and Ekuale, amongst a haze of complex and exasperating paperwork, arrived on campus at Washington State to begin his college career. He weighed in at 262 pounds -- down 30 pounds from just a few months before.

"I'm working out like everyone else and (the strength coaches) have been telling me to continue running," Ekuale said.

FROM HAVING SPOKEN to him first hand, he's not out of shape. Not now.

Last year, Niu Sale came in out of shape and couldn't contribute, he never truly found his place because of the extra weight and eventually left the program. That's not the case here. Ekuale is a stout 262 pounds.

Ekuale won't know for a bit longer where he's going to line up, but he does believe nose tackle will eventually be his calling.

"I don't know about playing the position at the weight I'm at right now," Ekuale said. "Coaches have just told me they want me running and keeping up my size and strength."

MAKING THE TRANSITION to the nose tackle position from tight end, or to the defensive line for the matter, shouldn't be too much of an issue. He played a lot of defensive tackle his sophomore season in Pago Pago.

Ekuale said that relearning the technique will be the biggest thing, but having friends from Samoa will greatly benefit him.

Sophomores Robert Barber (NT) and Destiny Vaeao (DE), as well as fellow true freshman DE Emmitt Su'a-Kalio, have been friends of Ekuale's going way back -- he's played football with or against each of them for years.

"We like to go up to the (Student Recreation Center) together all the time after practice," Ekuale said.

Having familiar faces around to reach out to has helped Ekuale with his transition, but at this point he said he's just happy to be a Coug after going through all kinds of challenges the past several months.

"I made getting to Washington State my No. 1 priority," Ekuale said. "It took a lot of steps to get me to the States, and get me here. I'm here now though, and I'm available to play. I'm good to go!"

  • Coug Night at the Tacoma Rainiers is this Saturday. For all the details: CLICK HERE

  • Ekuale, primarily a tight end in high school, took a year off after his senior season to work on his academics and in the weight room. He committed to Washington State after an official visit to Pullman in late January over offers from Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Hawaii.

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