Friday, August 25, 2000
Now, FatafehiMANHATTAN, Kan. -- Before football, he used to make trouble.
on the field
Former Farrington football
standout does a 'reverse
Dorothy' by leaving home
to find glory at Kansas State
By Kalani Simpson
Special to the Star-Bulletin
Growing up in public housing, he said, "I see something I like, I take 'em, I run."
But when it came time to join the team at Farrington High School, he wanted to impress the coach. He shot his mouth off. That was not, he soon found out the hard way, what the coach wanted.
Tenacity. Hard work.
"Don't talk it," Mario Fatafehi says now. "Show it."
Now at Kansas State, the lessons learned at Farrington have served Fatafehi well.
Coach Bill Snyder is a driven, perfectionist, workaholic genius who hoards information better than the FBI, dislikes talk almost as much as he dislikes penalties.
Having built Kansas State from national joke to national power through hard work and manic attention to detail, Snyder is Fatafehi's second coach who prefers deeds to words.
The first? The "Bull of Kalihi.'' Fatafehi's mentor, Skippa Diaz, who retired as the Governors' coach in 1998.
It was Diaz, Fatafehi said, who set him straight, who showed him a better path. Following a career at Farrington, Fatafehi went on to college, first at Snow (junior) College in Utah, then Kansas State.
After Diaz, Snyder's infamously eccentric discipline was a piece of cake. Last season Fatafehi, a defensive tackle, was the Big 12's Defensive Newcomer of the Year and second-team all-conference.
The Wildcats were 11-1, winning their bowl and a share of the Big 12 North. And in an approving nod from Snyder, Fatafehi was named a football team representative for the upcoming season.
But off the field Fatafehi is most proud of something else.
"Now I'm a schoolboy," Fatafehi said. "I'm trying to make it and so far I am."
Snyder and Diaz would approve. Fatafehi goes to classes, plays football and goes home to the welcoming simplicity of married life.
"Life is a lot easier now," he said.
"She (wife Brittnee) cook, I clean. I no wash dishes, I no eat. Gotta call Pizza Wagon."
Because he has dedicated himself to his studies and because the Wildcats are a Top 10 team and because he has a lovely bride, and because the Pizza Wagon is only a phone call away, there is only one problem.
"No mo' beach over hea'," he said. "Only me here from Hawaii. It's hard. It's a different kind culture. In Hawaii I'm the majority. Here, I'm the minority of minorities.
"I tell people I'm Tongan. They say, 'What is Tongan? What language do you speak? Do you speak Tonganese?' "
Fatafehi does miss home.
"All I need is some more Hawaiian people to come over here," he said, admitting he's sometimes reduced to watching "Baywatch" to help fill the void.
But he does like it in Kansas. He likes Bill Snyder. He likes the way his new life is turning out. He had wanted a chance to see what else there was out there.
And what's out there is exciting, even if it is sometimes cold and always flat.
Fatafehi remembers what made him so adventurous -- watching the planes climb up, up, into the sky and off "da rock" and into dreams.
"I used to say, 'I wonder where they going?' " he said.
Through college football, thanks to his high school coach, he's finding out.
No. 8-ranked Kansas State opens the regular season in the Eddie Robinson Classic at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., tomorrow against unranked Iowa at 8 a.m. HST.
The game will be televised on Fox SportsNet.
Ninth on Top DT national list by Lindy's.
Fatafehi's preseason honors
18th on Top DT national list by The Sporting News.
First team All-Big 12 by Lindy's.
Second team All-Big 12 by The Sporting News.
Second team All-Big 12 by Rivals.com.
Iowa vs. No. 8 Kansas State, 8 a.m. (FSN)
BYU vs. No. 2 Florida St, 8 a.m. (ABC)
No. 15 So. Cal vs. No. 22 Penn St., 8:30 (ABC)
Ga. Tech at No. 11 Va. Tech, 8 a.m. (ESPN2)
All times HST