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December 18, 2012Jayhawk Slant takes a look back at some of the recruits who have committed to Kansas in the last few months. In this segment we look at American River CC linebacker Samson Faifili.
The first thing you need to know about Faifili is that football runs deep in his family. He is cousins with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o as well as current Tennessee Titan safety Al Afalava. His brother Joseph Faifili was a highly ranked four star recruit who would play at Utah.
Faifili started playing football when he was ten years old in Hawaii. His uncle started a local league for kids who either couldn't pay the fees to join the town's Pop Warner league or were too heavy to be admitted into the league. Faifili watched as his older brother and cousins prep careers began to take off.
"Just watching my brother and cousins succeed it made me want to be known how they are," Faifili said. "I don't want to be known as Joe's little brother but want to make a name for myself and represent my family name. One of the big things in my recruitment was going to a school that allowed the names on the back of their jerseys."
Faifili moved from Hawaii to Washington in junior high and then to Utah for his last two years of high school. He played running back, fullback, linebacker and strong safety for his high school at Granger High School in West Valley City, Utah.
His school won just three games in the two years he was there. While he earned all-conference honors, looking back he said he wished he would've dedicated himself more to the game when he was younger.
"In high school I just kind of winged it," Faifili said. "I didn't have to try hard and I didn't have the work ethic that I would have in junior college."
Faifili graduated from high school and spent a year working side jobs around Utah in his year off from football. He would help people move, tutored, and even taught kids how to play the piano and guitar for money. It wasn't long before he realized he didn't have much structure in his life and needed a new plan.
"I had too much time on my hands to just sit there and do a job that my heart wasn't into," Faifili said. "I knew something was missing so I decided to take a stab at football again."
He called American River CC coach Jerry Haflich to see if he had room for him. Haflich said he couldn't guarantee him a spot on the team but he would get a tryout.
"When I came to junior college I had nothing to lose," Faifili said. "I had hit rock bottom and all I could do was just go up. I just used the motivation from all the people that told me I couldn't do it."
Faifili made the team and started every game his freshman year at both fullback and linebacker. He added nearly 30 pounds to get his weight to 235 pounds which caught the eye of college recruiters.
Before his sophomore season Kansas began to recruit him. Before he took his visit he called his uncle Brian Te'o and asked for feedback on Charlie Weis. Brian knew the Kansas coach well from when Weis recruited his son Manti to Notre Dame years earlier.
"My uncle said that Coach Weis is the only guy he would trust outside of his family with Manti," Faifili said.
Another factor in why Faifili chose the school was the consistency in which Kansas recruited him. While some of the schools that had offered him would only occasionally call him every few months, Kansas coach Jeff Blasko was on the phone with him weekly.
"It showed me that they cared and they didn't just want me to be another jersey on the sideline," Faifili said. "They have expectations of me coming in to start and not just sit on the side."
Kansas plans on using Faifili at weakside linebacker. When defensive coordinator Dave Campo visited Faifili several weeks ago he told him that they are going to give him opportunities rush the quarterback and make plays.
"I plan on bringing back the sack game at KU," Faifili said. "I want to lead the team in sacks and if I am fortunate lead the conference."