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Aupiu Juggles a Consuming Schedule : Family, School and Work Monopolize Moorpark Linebacker's Time

October 15, 1987|RALPH NICHOLS | Times Staff Writer

It's a few minutes before the start of practice for the Moorpark College football team and the Raiders' star linebacker is nowhere in sight.

While players gather near the field, one of them heads toward the equipment room. His mission: to find Miller Aupiu.

Yo, Miller, wake up call! It's time for practice. Nap time is over.

If Aupiu is not in the equipment room, then maybe he is stretched out in the coaches' office.

The football field is about the only place where Aupiu is not likely to try to snooze--even for a couple of minutes.

Aupiu (pronounced AH-pew) is not lazy. Quite the contrary.

He was forced to take up napping while trying to juggle a job, a full class load, his football obligations and his responsibilities as the father of two children.

"I feel good when Friday is over," Aupiu said. "I look forward to the game on Saturday. That's my relaxation."

Sunday is Aupiu's only day to stay home, kick off his cleats and do nothing.

Well, almost nothing.

"I try to sleep in late on Sundays, but I can't because of my son," he said.

Aupiu, 20, lives in Oxnard with his live-in girlfriend, Valerie Gill, and their children, a 2-year-old son and infant daughter. She takes care of the children while he works, studies and plays football.

Gill, 19, sees Aupiu mostly on weekends and "when he's sleeping." She attends the Moorpark games, but she's not really a football fan. It's more that she likes to see him awake once in a while.

Aupiu works for United Parcel Service in Ventura from 3 to 8 in the morning. He takes classes at Oxnard College but is allowed to play for Moorpark because Oxnard doesn't have a football program.

"To get through, I just take it one day at a time," he said.

Football is a tradition in Aupiu's family, which has enough former players in it to form a replacement team.

Three of the Aupiu boys played at Channel Islands High. So did a sister, who was a member of the freshman football team. Aupiu's father and two of his uncles were linebackers in college and high school.

Together, they form quite a critique committee.

"They say I'm doing a good job," he said. "My dad tells me things, to react faster to the ball or look for the pass. I always take advice from him."

Aupiu, a full-blooded Samoan, is soft-spoken and rather stoic, much like the rest of his family. His quiet demeanor, however, belies his aggressive, tenacious play at linebacker. He has helped Moorpark to its best start in history.

Before losing, 26-23, to Bakersfield last Saturday, the Moorpark defense had allowed only 31 points in four games. The Raiders set school records for consecutive shutout games (two) and scoreless quarters (11).

Aupiu had his best game against Long Beach City College. He had two interceptions, 14 tackles and was named Western State Conference defensive player of the week.

"If we had 11 guys with his tenacity, they wouldn't score anything on us," said Steve Breda, Moorpark's defensive coordinator.

Linebacker Coach Jim Bauer echoed Breda's sentiment.

"I think he's a tremendously gifted athlete with great instincts and quickness," Bauer said.

If Aupiu continues to improve--he averages 10 unassisted tackles a game--Breda said he could play for a Division II college.

"He could get on with a Division I school, definitely Division II," Breda said. "But his size is going to be a disadvantage."

Aupiu, 5 feet, 10 inches and 196 pounds, is nine pounds heavier than his 1985 playing weight. He's smaller than most Division I linebackers, however.

A first-team All-WSC selection in 1985, Aupiu sat out last season while trying to work out a way to juggle all of his commitments. He was uncertain whether he wanted to play a second season for Moorpark.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do," Aupiu said. "I had to take care of some personal problems and I didn't know if I wanted to work and play ball at the same time."

Aupiu missed football too much, however, and decided to return--to Coach Jim Bittner's delight.

"He feels like this is his real shot, so he's going after it," Bittner said.

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