Fiji Native Finds Home in Southern Cal

Vaughn Lesuma wasn't recruited out of high school for one good reason. He didn't play football. "I went to high school on the island of Fiji. Since there wasn't a football team, I played rugby.

That was my first exposure to contact sports. I never even wore a football helmet until two years ago."

Scrum anyone?

But at 6'5, 340, the offensive tackle at Mt. San Jacinto College has used his lack of experience to his advantage. He's hungry to learn, and coaches appreciate the way he's making up for lost time. 

"Players at the JC level can sometimes be complacent. For me, that's not a problem. In practice I hit a little harder, run a little faster, and my greatest asset is probably that I haven't played long enough to develop bad habits. Every day I'm excited to practice, and I think that enthusiasm shows on the field. I came here knowing nothing, and I want to know everything."

After a brief stint in Hawaii, Lesuma did a two-year Mormon mission in southern California. "I went in as a boy and came out a man. I was only allowed to call home twice a year, on Christmas and Mother's Day. Otherwise, I communicated with my family by writing letters. There was no dating, no movies… essentially my life was studying the Scriptures and putting my faith in Jesus Christ into action. It made me grow up."

Lesuma eventually attended Snow College in Utah where he actually touched snow for the first time. "I really enjoyed it, for the first hour." After a back injury resulted in a demotion on the depth chart, serendipity intervened. His uncle called from California. "He encouraged me to move to California and live with him. That's how I ended up at Mt. San Jacinto."

With a 3.8 GPA in communications and cultural studies, Lesuma has talent in the classroom as well as the desire to devote himself mentally and physically to game he loves. But he is quick to note that his faith is what motivates him. "Football is what I do, but it's not who I am. I want to spread the message of my faith and help people change their lives."

Scheduled to graduate at the end of the year, major universities like New Mexico St., Oregon State, and USC have contacted him about playing at the next level where he'll have two years of eligibility. And he recently watched a practice at BYU. But for now, he's not thinking about next year. "I'm focused on this season. Our team can't wait for that first game. Next year will take care of itself."

For Lesuma, every play is an important play, every play is his favorite. Whether he's laying out a linebacker on a screen pass or blowing open holes on a counter, he's just happy to be on the field using his considerable talents.

Sounds like he's learned a lot already.


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