If quarterbacks, running backs and receivers who have been jolted by a tackle from Anaheim Servite middle linebacker Butch Pauu could see him in shorts holding a tennis racket, perhaps they'd feel a little better knowing their antagonist wasn't so tough after all.
He's not so tough on a tennis court, but when the pads go on, Pauu becomes a 5-foot-11, 218-pound dynamo who always seems to be in the right spot at the right time.
He has not missed a game the last two seasons, when, by no coincidence, Servite has won consecutive Pac-5 Division championships. He has committed to Brigham Young.
"He's a tough kid," Servite Coach Troy Thomas said. "He's been in a lot of tough battles."
And yet, Pauu's humbleness makes him appealing to friend and foe alike. Playing doubles for the school tennis team gives him a chance to work on footwork, but he looks out of place with his bulging muscles and intimidating physical stature.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, September 01, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
High school football: An article in the Aug. 30 Sports section about Anaheim Servite linebacker Butch Pauu said Pauu had a sister who plays tennis at Anaheim Rosary. Rosary is in Fullerton.
His father convinced him to try tennis as a second sport to football. Pauu has a younger sister who's an outstanding sophomore tennis player at Anaheim Rosary.
"The joke going is that his sister can beat him in tennis," Thomas said.
Pauu, however, takes his tennis seriously. You can see the frustration on his face if a serve doesn't work out or a backhand falls flat. The opponent should feel somewhat confident that Pauu won't charge him like a quarterback about to be sacked.
"I always get a lot of different responses from coaches, always surprised to see me playing tennis or hearing I play tennis," Pauu said. "I think it's a good, funny laugh for them."
Tennis helps Pauu take a break from football, but it doesn't prevent him from spending hours in the weight room building up his strength. And he says he gains quickness from tennis.
"That's what we need to do as a middle linebacker, go side to side as fast as possible away from the big guys and try to get to the receivers at the same time," he said.
Pauu is Tongan, which means he has more cousins and family members than he even knows. Teammates joke that the Pauu rooting section at games is louder than the student section.
"It's so fun and cool to see my family there," he said.
And you never know who might show up to join the Pauu clan.
"Every summer, we have a reunion and meet someone new, 'Oh, hey, we're cousins.' It's awkward at first but cool at the same time," he said.
Pauu's height might cause some to wonder how he can be a dominant football player, but after listening to his response, it becomes clear how motivation and instincts take over.
"I just set the tone with the offensive linemen," he said. "I let them know I may not be the biggest linebacker that's 6-2, 6-3, 250 pounds, but I'm someone that's going to play all four quarters, all 48 minutes.
"I'm going to play for my teammates, play for my family. I'm going to hit them as hard as I can every play just to let them know it won't be just here or there, it's going to be every single time you come at me, I'm going to come and hit you back."
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Top high school linebackers
*--* Name School Ht. Wt. Cl. Comment Jeremia Dorsey 6-0 200 Sr. Has 42 sacks last two seasons h Allison Su'a Vista 6-1 205 Jr. Hits and runs like a free safety Cravens Murrie ta C.J. Chapar 6-2 220 Sr. Committed to Arizona State Dozier ral Salamo Long 6-0 200 Sr. Was a summer sensation Fiso Beach Poly Seth Arroyo 6-2 210 Sr. A tackling machine Jacobs Grande Carlos Oaks 6-2 220 Sr. Another in long line of Lions Mendoza Christ standouts ian Butch Servite 5-11 220 Sr. He's physical, tough, durable Pauu Aaron La 6-2 230 Sr. Committed to UCLA Porter Habra Blake Tesoro 6-2 220 Sr. Committed to Washington Rodgers Jabari Downey 6-3 225 Sr. USC commit looks the part of top Ruffin prospect *--*
-- Eric Sondheimer