If you want to find Asi Faoa, look no further than Magnolia High's weight room. He's there every day at 6 a.m.
It's not something he feels he's being forced to do. After all, he has already earned a football scholarship to UCLA, will play for the North team in Friday's Orange County All-Star football game at Orange Coast College and was recently named by athletic directors the Orange County Athlete of the Year.
Faoa just wants to succeed.
Part of that drive is that he knows exactly how important each and every day is. It's too bad he learned about it in such tragic circumstances.
On Aug. 14, 1994, Leo Asoau, Faoa's first cousin, visited a friend's home. In a week, the former West Covina High linebacker would be heading to Washington State on a football scholarship. He was about to become the first in his family to go to college.
But that night, there was an argument. It ended abruptly when Asoau was shot and killed.
"He went out with a couple of friends, and one of his friends was jealous because the girl he liked, liked my cousin," Faoa said. "It was a sad situation."
Faoa, who was about to start eighth grade at the time of his cousin's death, started following in Asoau's footsteps. At Magnolia High, he took on football, basketball and track, just like his cousin had at West Covina. He even played the same position in football--tight end and linebacker--as Leo. He chose 35 as his jersey number.
Just like Leo.
Faoa, who wasn't allowed to play Pop Warner football as a youth because his seventh-day Adventist church met on Saturdays, earned a spot on the varsity football team as a sophomore. In track and field, he threw the discus and shotput. And basketball started coming more easily for the tall boy who was starting to find his coordination. But he was still worried it might not be enough to get noticed by college scouts.
On the football field, Magnolia isn't in the same class as Los Alamitos or Mater Dei. Not a single Sentinel had received a Division I football scholarship in the 1990s, which wasn't good news for Faoa, who knew the only way he was going to be able to go to college was with an athletic scholarship.
"I'm not a 4.5 student, and I wasn't going to get an academic scholarship," Faoa said.
Faoa kept working, moving around the field during his junior year, playing running back, tight end, outside linebacker and inside linebacker. It was in part to help the team, and in part to help him get noticed by recruiters. It wasn't a problem for Faoa.
"He's smart enough and versatile and coachable enough so we could do that easily," Magnolia Coach Bill Friedrich said. "He could have even played free safety, even with his size."
Faoa was tall, even as a freshman, but by the time he was a senior he stood 6 feet 4 and weighed 235 pounds.
Washington, Nevada Las Vegas and Kentucky all showed interest, but Faoa decided to stay close to home and chose UCLA. There was one thing that he asked Bruin coaches about right away. He wanted to make sure uniform No. 35 was still available, so he could continue his tribute to his cousin. The coaches told him it was his.
"I made sure I got that number," he said.
As a Bruin, he's been told he will play outside linebacker. It was the same position his cousin was going to play at Washington State.
"He's going to be a force coming off of the edge," Friedrich said. "I don't think anyone is going to be able to use a running back to block him."
Faoa credits his family with a lot of his success. After his cousin's death, his parents, Folasa and Kim, made sure Faoa was going to stay far away from any combustible situation.
"That's why my parents are so protective of me," he said. "They don't let me do anything like go out with friends."
Along with being at every practice and every game, Faoa's parents--after much discussion within the family--gave him permission to play on Saturdays at UCLA.
"Now, sports are a part of my education," Faoa said. "That's the only way I can get further education, to play football."
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* What: Orange County North-South All-Star Football Game
* When: 7:15 p.m., Friday
* Where: Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa
* Basics: North leads series, which is in its 40th year, 20-16-3. South won last year's game, 14-10.
* Tickets: $7 in advance, $8 at the gate.
* Benefits: PADRE Foundation, Inc.; Western Youth Services, Orange County Youth Foundation, Inc., and local high schools and youth groups
* Information: (714) 529-1201