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Leofa Dead Calm Off Field, Deadly on It

September 01, 1993|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Los Amigos' Junior Leofa doesn't look like he would be much of a football player, least all a middle linebacker. At 5-foot-7, 180 pounds, Leofa is barely visible behind his defensive linemen.

Los Amigos Coach Steve Bolton said Leofa doesn't act like the stereotypical linebacker either.

"He's very gentle, almost like a teddy bear off the field," Bolton said.

On the field, Leofa is a different character.

"When I'm on the field, I feel like a wild animal," said Leofa, whose given name is Sauaga.

Originally, Leofa said he felt like "a criminal," on the field, but Bolton told him to tone it down a little.

But in his two years as a starter, Leofa hasn't once toned down his act. He made more than 100 tackles each year and was named to the all-Garden Grove League's second-team defense last season.

"He's definitely a kid you deal with when you go over your game plan," Kennedy Coach Mitch Olson said. "He's very tough. He just seems to get the job done."

Bolton said there's nothing spectacular about Leofa.

"He just seems to make tackles and he doesn't miss his man," Bolton said.

Leofa patterned his play after former Chicago Bears' linebacker Mike Singletary, whose intense stare was enough to intimidate any quarterback. Leofa liked the stare--and the player.

"Singletary used to be my favorite," Leofa said. "His eyes are amazing."

Now that Singletary has retired, Leofa's new idol is San Diego middle linebacker Junior Seau, a fellow Samoan.

"I watch him all the time," Leofa said. "Any time I'm on the field, I think of him. He plays the way I want to play, but I'm a little too short to do some of the things he does. Seau has the quickness of a cheetah and the strength of a buffalo."

Leofa can't match Seau's speed and power, so he tries to match his intensity level.

"The way he plays just fascinates me," he said. "I'm biting my mouthpiece and closing my fist. I just can't wait for the play to start. I want to dominate."

Leofa wants this year, his senior season, to be his most dominating one. He realizes the college coaches will be watching and an athletic scholarship depends on his performance. His 3.2 grade point average should help his chances. Another good season at fullback--he ran for 622 yards and eight touchdowns and had an 5.9-yard average last year--could help, too.

"I just want to do the best for my parents," said Leofa, who has received recruiting letters from Colorado and Washington State. "I want to help them out as much as I can. My family comes first."

Leofa said his family comes out in large numbers to support him.

"Half of my generation comes to my games," he said.

Los Amigos' games should be worth watching this year. With nine starters back on defense and seven returning on offense from last year's 6-4-2 squad, Los Amigos has been picked by the other seven league coaches as the favorite.

Leofa likes his team's chances, but he's trying to stay humble.

When asked where his team would place in league, Leofa suddenly became quiet.

"I don't even have any comments on that," he said. "I have confidence, but I don't want to say anything too early. I want to do my talking on the field."

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