IT'S CHAOS. Lightning crackles. Thunder thuds. Pads pop. Bodies are everywhere, slamming, scattering -- masses of them splintering like wood. It's the middle of the line, on a sunny Manoa morning, and football is in the air.
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And at the bottom of the pile, Lance Samuseva is laughing. Laughing! It's a high-pitched, gushing giggle, the laughter of a man with so much joy inside of him that he just can't contain it. He feels too good. It's just got to come out.
Now people are picking themselves up, and now he's yelling and cursing and carrying on.
"Beautiful!" he says. "Just ... beautiful!"
He has a helmet on, way out there in the middle of the field. You can't see his face. But you just know that the UH freshman from Farrington is smiling big.
"All you hear is helmets, big noise, everybody going 'Aaaaaaaaghh!'," Samuseva says after the first scrimmage of University of Hawaii spring drills.
"It's good hearing those things. You know everybody's playing hard. You know everybody's having fun."
And even through the pain of a hyperextended elbow, Samuseva is as bright as Christmas morning.
He loves this. He loves putting on the pads, being with the guys. He loves the kidding and camaraderie and just being together and talking story over ankle wraps and shoelaces.
He loves sneaking in there and slamming in there and stopping the offense right at its heart. He loves making the tackle, or even knowing he set one up. He loves sweating and running, and feeling strong and young and alive.
IT'S THE MIDDLE OF MARCH and Samuseva is becoming a defensive tackle. He's learning and working and celebrating triumphs.
He's slipping and watching a man run past him and slamming a hand to the turf in disgust. He's yelling and laughing and telling the guy in front of him that he's coming again. And that it's beautiful. It's all beautiful.
After a long redshirt year, Samuseva is trying to show something, trying to win a job. He wants to work on the little things. Technique. Penetration. He wants to play hard and play fast. He's out early, and he stays late.
"It's great to be back in football season again," he said. And you know that he means it.
"He's had a great spring camp," said UH defensive line coach Vantz Singletary. "We're real excited about him."
They're excited because defensive tackles can be the key to a defense, and good defensive tackles are a rare and special breed.
Samuseva, competing with returning starter Lui Fuga for the job in 2001, has potential. He has passion and power, and Singletary sees him as a possible run stuffer, a "shade" tackle. Samuseva could be the kind of guy who can make a difference in short yardage, on the goal line, on first down to put an offense in the hole.
"He's been running first-team pretty much the entire time," Singletary said.
Now practice is over for the day and Samuseva is walking through alignments and assignments and technique. He's soaked with sweat, but happy. It feels just beautiful.
Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org