Govs’ Lauvao goes with
his heart, and ASU

Saint Louis running back Sullivan
opts for Air Force Academy

He planned to go on all five scheduled visits, but Shawn Sisifo Lauvao decided to follow his heart.

Yesterday morning, the Farrington offensive lineman gave Arizona State his oral commitment to play football there this fall. In the process, he canceled this week's trip to Utah.

Lauvao wasn't the only recruit busy in the last 24 hours. Saint Louis running back Kevin Sullivan accepted an offer Wednesday night to play football at the Air Force Academy.

Sullivan, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound senior, was a bulldozing back in Saint Louis' run-and-shoot system. The Star-Bulletin All-State second-team selection also received interest from Rhode Island, SMU and Duke.

Air Force operates a flexbone option -- a single-back set with two wings.

"It's a perfect fit for him, with the type of runner he is, a north-south type runner who doesn't dance outside a lot," Saint Louis coach Delbert Tengan said.

Air Force doesn't extend scholarships, per se, to athletes as other Division I institutions do -- there's no letter of intent by high school players. All academy students -- athletes and non-athletes -- attend on scholarship.

"The saying there is all cadets are athletes, but not all athletes are cadets," said Doris Sullivan, Kevin's mother. "Now I can retire. I don't have to pay for his education."

Her older son, Billy, is a Damien graduate who played briefly at Air Force. He is still a student there.

"I think it's a different kind of environment that isn't for everyone, but having his brother there will definitely help," Tengan said.

There's another reason Tengan believes Sullivan and the Falcons were made for each other.

"The No. 1 thing about Air Force and all the academies is, you get a bunch of overachievers," he said. "They might not have the great size and speed, but they have the heart to work hard and play within the system. That's the kind of guy Kevin is.

"He's the kind of guy I'd want to represent our country."

Having the aptitude to get into an academy certainly carries over to the playing field.

"He's a very smart guy, scored around 1,200 on his SATs, so that helps," Tengan said.

Coincidentally, Doris Sullivan is a key reason why Lauvao garnered exposure after the regular season ended. Sullivan operates Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance, which connects prospects in several sports to potential colleges at no cost.

Lauvao, a 6-3 310-pounder, was a Star-Bulletin All-State second-team pick. He visited Cal, BYU and Washington in addition to Arizona State.

Cal was the early favorite, but Arizona State won his heart, said Lauvao's mother, Faumuina "Lee" Lauvao.

It still wasn't easy. Lauvao, an only child, has a lot of input from his father, Sisifo.

"It took us two nights and two days to try and convince Shawn. My husband wanted him to go to Cal-Berkeley. I wanted him to go to Washington. We have family there. They have one of the best medical schools in the country," Lee said, referring to Shawn's goal of becoming a pharmacist.

"They have a great new coach," she added. "And they have a lot of Polynesians there. But that didn't matter to him."

One of the early schools to contact Lauvao was Arizona State.

"Arizona State was there from the beginning. That's another thing Shawn spoke about: loyalty," she said. "He said, 'Mommy, I'll go wherever you want me to go, but my heart is in Arizona State.' I said 'Honey, sometimes the heart is deceiving.' But that didn't faze him. The chemistry is there at Arizona State. He met the entire team. He just saw something there.

Lauvao made a decision in December to maximize his visits. Yesterday, the day he was to board a flight to Utah, however, his conscience spoke.

"He said it all makes sense," his mother said. "He said, 'I want to go somewhere where I'll look forward to getting up every day to work out.'"

Arizona State head coach Dirk Koetter was there with the Lauvao family when Shawn made his decision.

"I could see him almost tearing in his eyes," Lee said of Koetter. "They were holding one scholarship out for Shawn."

Lee called the other schools, including Hawaii, to give them the news. Hawaii was interested in Lauvao strictly as a defensive lineman. All were cordial, but she detected some denial by one school.

"Washington didn't take it very well," she said. "They asked questions, like 'What did he not like about Washington?' "

Being a recently converted UW fan, she could do nothing but shrug.

"It's been a roller coaster, an exciting and challenging experience," she said.

And now, Shawn Sisifo Lauvao can go back to his "normal" life as a student with a 3.7 grade-point average who bench presses 225 pounds 22 times, squats 495 pounds and hits the sack every night by 8 p.m.

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