February 9, 2007

Closer look: Sione Tau

The Buffaloes final addition to the Class of 2007 was a big one. 6-foot-6, 310-pound Sione Tau was the top ranked offensive lineman in Hawaii this recruiting cycle. He was named first-team all-state as a senior despite missing a large portion of the season due to injury.

To get the inside scoop on Tau, we caught up with the President at his high school, Brother Greg O'Donnell.

Could you talk about Sione Tau, both as a football player and as a person?

Brother Greg O'Donnell: "Sione is a young man that was already huge as an eighth grader. He is the kind of kid that is just endowed with incredible physical ability. The young man has also come from what you might call a troubled family. He has done very well to kind of keep things together. He has been through a lot of difficulties. But he has done very well in school. He is the kind of kid that is not going to embarrass you in any way. He is well known at the school but he is never overbearing on anybody. He is kind of a gentle giant.

"Unfortunately he got hurt his senior year and was only able to play three games. But obviously the physical ability is there. He's quick, he's big. He is also smart enough to handle all the assignments and know where he is supposed to be and so on and so forth.

"When he did get injured, he literally played half a game on a broken foot. I asked him yesterday why he did that and he said, 'I just couldn't stand to stay on the sideline and watch the other guys playing without me'. He said it hurt a lot but it would have hurt a lot not to play."

And he was a student body vice president, too, correct?

"That is correct. He did well in that position. He had good leadership. He is the kind of kid where his time was limited, though. He used to work with his father as a stonemason. He doesn't talk much about that. His family is, as I said, kind of in a difficult situation. He doesn't talk much about home. Consequently when it came to doing a lot of things around school his time was never his own because when he wasn't practicing, he had to help his dad out in the business at home. So he was able to do the student council work, but it's a wonder he was able to do it at all."

You talked about the fact that his family doesn't have a lot of money. With him now getting his college education paid for, this is obviously a great reward for his hard work?

"Definitely. He is a kid who never had anything monetarily. Even this morning signing the papers, how to get to the place to do it was an issue. They had a ceremony at the city hall. His family doesn't have a car so he had to find an uncle to drive him out there. The simplest things were not simple for him. He is a very quiet kid, he doesn't say too much. You'll see him in the cafeteria here at lunch time playing chess with the other kids. Aside from his size, you wouldn't see him and think about his personality as being a football player. But he is one, and a very good one at that."

As for Tau's college decision… it sounds like he was torn between Colorado and Arizona up until the minute he signed his letter of intent?

"It was a tough week for him. The coach at Arizona that was recruiting him was Coach Mike Tuiasosopo and that is a big name locally out here. There are Tuiasosopos all around the Island. The other coach was Brian Cabral from Colorado. Brian is a local guy, he went to Saint Louis [High School]. Brian is a very personable guy.

"To make it more interesting, last year we had a couple players sign Division-1 scholarships. They were both Sione's friends. One went to Colorado (Michael Sipili) and one went to Arizona (Lolomana Mikaele). They made last minute decisions as well. So Sione had a friend in each place. He says that one of the factors in his decision is that when Brian Cabral came to his house, his mother felt more comfortable with Brian than with other coaches. It's kind of Island style. They talk the same language so to speak. So I think it was a very, very tough decision for him. In fact, yesterday (Tuesday) he didn't know for sure. He was hesitant to even say anything."

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