RECRUITING: Future Cougar Ahmu shines bright

WSU VERBAL COMMIT <b>Fevaea'i Ahmu</b> was in Miami this past week to participate in the CaliFlorida Bowl. Because it's a select All-Star game, players were rotated liberally but during his time on the field, Ahmu made his presence known with six tackles including a sack. His high school coach says Ahmu is the total package -- on the field, in the locker room and off the field.

"I think I did pretty good," San Diego native Fevaea'i Ahmu said of his play in the CaliFlorida Bowl. "I think I did really good, actually. We had a rotation on the d-line so I wasn't in the game constantly but when I was in, I got into the flow of things pretty well. They kept us in rotation and that kept us pretty fresh. I felt really good when I was in the game."

Although the game ended with a 24-22 loss by the California squad, Ahmu enjoyed the experience. While he would have much rather won the game, he and his defensive teammates held Florida to just 201 total yards. One of Florida's scores came on an 86-yard kickoff return.

"Oh it was a good experience, I had a lot of fun," laughed the always upbeat Ahmu. "I met a lot of good players."

ON THE FIELD, Ahmu is a terror on the inside of the line who, despite frequent double and triple teams, will bowl over, chase down and just never stop until the whistle blows. The 6-0, 290-pound star out of Serra High is simply a dominant force in the middle.

On the sideline and off the field, Ahmu is one of those guys that teammates gravitate towards, in part because of his upbeat personality.

"I think he's going to be a really good teammate there at Washington State," said Serra coach Brian Basteyns. "He really wanted to go to a place where he felt like he was part of a family. He really wants that and I know he wants to contribute to that -- so I think Washington State was the right spot for him."

"He could have gone pretty much anywhere in the country. Everyone in the Pac-10 was interested, as well as schools like Notre Dame and others."

PART OF WHAT makes Ahmu unique is his speed from the inside. Combined with his natural strength, that he's built low to the ground and uses proper pad level, he's extraordinarily difficult to stop.

Ahmu had at least one sack in eight of 11 games. Including the playoff game, coach Basteyns noted Ahmu had 15 sacks from his interior position, simply caving in opponents' offensive lines.

"He's really quick, very agile. I think one of the best things about him -- it's not just his strength -- he's got a really good sense for the ball."

It gets better. Ahmu is a true student of the game, someone who takes a lot of pride in the way he plays football. When we called him for this article, he took a few minutes off of film work to speak with us. He was busy breaking down game film of the CaliFlorida Bowl with his father.

"He's just a very smart player, spends a lot of time watching film," said Basteyns. "He understands the game very well."

THE FOCAL POINT of opposing offenses, Ahmu makes players around him better. He does the same thing off the field and in the locker room.

"He's been a team leader for us, been a captain the last two years. The kids respect him not only on the field but off the field as well. He's just an extremely hard worker, great kid."

Coach Basteyns feels Ahmu has the chance to be a difference maker over the course of his career at Washington State.

"I think he'll garner a lot of attention. Other teams would have to try and find a way to double team him or do those other types of things -- that's going to free up other guys. And he's just very smart like I said earlier, I think he will really help them as far their scheme and what they're trying to do."

BEFORE THE SEASON began, Serra suffered some key injuries including the starting d-tackle next to Ahmu. They also lost four of their best players for disciplinary reasons, leading to an 0-4 start. (After the school had disciplined the four, coach Basteyns increased the penalty, he sat the players down for the first four games.) Amidst that adversity, Ahmu stepped up.

"He was it," said coach Basteyns. "Him and our running back, Antoine Wilson, were the guys that kept this team together and kept them believing that good things would happen once we got our guys back."

"He really tried to develop a family atmosphere within our team. So he and the other captain were essential. They called their own meetings. They did a lot of that stuff. They kind of took the coaches out of the picture and said 'This is what we're going to do with it.' Just the respect he's earned from his teammates -- that was very big in helping turn things around."

When the team returned to full strength, Serra did some dominating of their own. Especially on defense, where Ahmu now had some backside support. After the 0-4 start, the Conquistadors reeled off five straight wins and made the playoffs.

Ahmu was named first team All-CIF for the second straight year. From his nose guard position, Ahmu had at least seven tackles in nine of 11 games. He is rated the No. 1 defensive tackle in all the West.

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