Tanuvasa fits nicely
into Broncos’ plans

By Pat Bigold

Maa Tanuvasa, who was a reluctant tryout for the Mililani High junior varsity in 1985, has become a critical role player for the defending AFC West champion Denver Broncos (4-0).

"I've been coming in on third-and-long, pass-rush situations," said the 6-foot-2, 270-pound left tackle. He has three sacks for -11 yards this year.

"Me and Michael Dean (Perry) are on the inside, and Alfred Williams (13 sacks last season) and Neil Smith on the outside."

Tanuvasa said the Broncos have him exactly where he can be most effective.

"For a player my size, it's easier to play one-gap defense instead of a two-gap defense," said the 26-year-old Tanuvasa.

One of his sacks came in last weekend's 38-20 victory against Cincinnati. He made the other two in the season-opening 19-3 win against Kansas City. Both games were at Mile High Stadium.

"The sack is a big thing," he said. "Usually, I try to flash my shaka sign or something. The crowd gets into it. It helps your stats, the team, and it helps get the quarterback off the field on third down."

In his 17-game NFL career, Tanuvasa has 24 tackles and five sacks (-39 yards).

"James Millwood taught me to play football," said Tanuvasa, referring to the Trojans' current varsity head coach who was then a JV assistant. "I didn't want to play, even when they got me out there. My mom didn't didn't like it either. She didn't want me to get hurt."

Millwood remembers him as the big youngster who "just wanted to run around and jump on people in practice." But now Millwood keeps an autographed photo of Tanuvasa in his office. "I'm always ready to tell the story," he said.

The Broncos face the defending AFC champion New England Patriots (4-0) at home a week from Monday on national TV. Even though, the Broncos crushed the Pats at Foxboro last year, Tanuvasa said, "We're trying not to look past this weekend's game at Atlanta (0-4). Hopefully we'll go against New England 5-0."

But the Saturday prior to his big Monday Night Football date, Tanuvasa promises he'll be in the stands to watch his old team, the University of Hawaii Rainbows, take on Colorado State. Tanuvasa's teammate is fifth-year kicker Jason Elam, who has seven field goals this season.

Tanuvasa and wife, Kris, a Pearl City High graduate, live in Englewood, Col., with their 8-year-old daughter, Chantel. Another child is due in May.

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