Faith over Football

In the end, Xavier Su’a-Filo chose faith over football.

UCLA’s freshman phenom offensive tackle said after the Bruins’ 30-21 EagleBank Bowl win over Temple on Tuesday that he was leaving school and embarking on his LDS mission.

The All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection has returned home to Utah and will learn of his destination on Jan. 6.

“I always thought it was the right thing to do,” said Su’a-Filo, who was a fixture at left tackle this season, starting all 13 games. “Growing yup, it was what I wanted to do. It was always ingrained in the back of my mind. I wasn’t looking for reasons not to go – I was trying to concentrate on the season, and see if it was the right thing for me to do at this time. After prayer and thought, I felt like it was.”


For months, Su’a-Filo played the decision close to the vest, only saying that he needed further consultation with his family and the UCLA coaching staff. Deep in his heart he knew he wanted to fulfill the religious task, but needed to weigh his options.

Among them: The opportunity to progress toward his eventual goal of the NFL, which he now believes he’s simply pushed back two years.

But he made one thing very clear – he always leaned toward leaving, rather than the other way around, despite his lofty football prospects.

“This decision wasn’t based on football,” Su’a-Filo said. “Wherever I went to school, I was going to compete, like I did this year – and I was fortunate to get to start – but it just wasn’t about football. I thought that whatever I did my freshman year, I’d work hard to do that and come back and do the exact same thing.”

Making the decision easier was the resounding support from UCLA’s coaching staff and its players. Su’a-Filo said he had the blessing of offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who is also Mormon, and distinctly remembers telling fellow LDS member Kevin Prince – the Bruins’ redshirt freshman quarterback who has decided not to leave for a mission.

“I remember telling him, pulling him aside, and he kind of looked at me and said, ‘Really? Really? You’re serious?’ and he gave me a big hug and told me congratulations,” Su’a-Filo said. “He said, ‘I’ll miss you, but I know you’re doing the right thing.’ That meant a lot to me. A lot of the guys on the team supported me, they might not have seen it the same way, but they supported me.”

While UCLA fans are left contemplating the decision after Prince decided to stay, Su’a-Filo is quick to point out that the two different positions – lineman and quarterback – have different paths when returning from the two-year absence.

“Quarterbacks and offensive linemen are very different,” Su’a-Filo said. “I looked at it as I was fortunate to have a great coach in high school and here at UCLA, and I think that going on my mission and coming back and being a 21-year-old sophomore, my body can be a man’s body.”

Now, UCLA fans, you can breathe easy: Su’a-Filo reiterated that he intends to remain a Bruin when he returns, and that his decision to leave for his mission is not an open cattle-call for recruitment.

“I’m a Bruin,” Su’a-Filo said. “I committed to this team and this group of coaches. I plan on them being here when I get back. You never know what’s going to happen, and it will be a decision I have to make when I get back, but I’m a Bruin.
“I’m not planning on going anywhere else.”

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  • Greg

    If he is getting his call on January 6th, then he has been working on his papers for several weeks in preparation to leave. It was smart of him to keep it under wraps to avoid the pressure and distraction. If he gets his call on January 6th, he will report to the missionary trainig center in February or March, and the 2-year clock will start ticking. He should be home for Spring ball in 2012.

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully he comes back to UCLA. If not, he is a great kid and I wish him well. Total class act and great player.

  • anon

    Both of 2009 OL prize recruits are no longer with the program a season later…

  • Blue Bruin

    That’s right: Jrue Holiday and Drew Gordon have come and gone and barely made an impact. Oh, wait…we’re talking football here. With the steady exodus of players in both sports, it’s difficult to tell who has the tougher rebuilding task

  • Slippery Pete

    “I’m not PLANNING on going anywhere else” Pretty huge qualifier there. I wonder what it will take for him to change his “PLANS”. Maybe another 7-6 season, maybe Chow moving on or retiring, maybe a surging BYU team that could really use an O-Lineman in a couple years. I have no reason to dislike the kid and I respect his faith and his decision, but I will not be holding my breath waiting on him to return in a blue and gold uni. I am looking forward to hear Ben Olson’s take on the situation.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s the elephant in the room: If he knew since he was a little boy that this is what he would do, and he feels strongly about doing this, and he’s never wavered on this there are three questions that must be asked:

    1. Did he tell this strong conviction to the coaches when he was recruited?

    2. Why did he lie in the past few weeks and say he wasn’t sure about going on a mission and was going to have to think and pray about it before he could make a decision.

    3. In light of question 1 and 2, were his acts truly Christian?

    As a strong Christian I’m offended by his actions an deceit.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous,

    He told the world in every interview he was going on a mission. He said he wasn’t sure because he probably didn’t want his teammates to get down on him or treat him differently. Yes, he is a true Mormon because he put his faith before a quick line to the NFL.

  • danny

    Anon, you are a blooming idiot. If you are offended by somebody telling the media something other than the truth, you need to stop watching sports altogether. You certainly need to stop following Rick Neuheisel, who has elevated that to an art form. If the media asks a question you don’t want the world to know, you don’t tell them just because they ask. Neuheisel has a long track record (for which i don’t blame him) of telling the media something other than the truth. Here’s a good example, Mr. Strong Christian,—when Rick was at UW he interviewed for the San Francisco 49ers job. He was asked by the media about it and denied it. Why? Because he wasn’t under oath, and he wanted to keep his job. It’s called common sense. if you don’t like it, better stop watching UCLA football.

  • Dr. Mario

    Yo, Danny. Get a clue, Trojie. Peter Carrol is the KING is spinning things and lying. I don’t think that I’ve heard an honest word out of his mouth since he landed in L.A. Nice try, trying to slander Coach Rick, though. It’s sad that you have to cite/make up examples from his UW days. Coach Rick has been honest and forthright since he started at UCLA, and the contrast between him and Cheaty Petey is glaring.

  • Anonymous

    Danny,

    His lying to the press has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with his convictions. They weren’t offhand fibs or spur of the moment mistakes, they were deliberate and calculated. This has nothing to do with Neuheisel as he’s never proclaimed his faith.

    There is a strong contradiction in XSF’s behavior and his words. There’s never an excuse to lie. It’s wrong, it’s against all principles of faith and those that do it in calculating manor are just fooling themselves as to their faith.

    He lied because it was convenient to lie. He didn’t want to get into the complications with his teammates, coaches, friends and the press. Unfortunately, lying always creates further complications such as the contradiction he now finds himself in.

    It’s entirely possible that the mission will solidify his faith and he will return a different person. If it does change him and strengthens his faith then that’s a good thing. This would never have happened to one who truly believes.

  • danny

    anon, you are a freaking idiot. Are you actually surprised XSF is leaving on his mission? We all knew this was a possibility. He has ZERO responsibility to tell the press his business. Go find a hole somewhere and hide in it. You disgust me. I expect most members of this board agree with me.

  • Anonymous

    He didn’t release the news prior to the bowl because it would have been a huge distraction. Everyone associated with the program had an understanding that this announcement was a strong possibility. Personally it would have been good for the announcement to happen before the bowl because then the coaches may have opted to play other individuals to give them that much needed experience. So one could say that withholding the news was a bit selfish on X’s part. After a very mediocre 7-6 season the Bruins are now in a situation where 2 top recruits may never return to the program. Yet these 2 top prospects were for the most part given the starting jobs. Stan lost out only after taking the majority of reps during fall camp. It was later discovered that he was having issues far more reaching then football. X did a good job, but by no means was he a dominator and has a long way to go to be the NFL star everyone projects.

  • BE REAL

    Is there anything more off-putting than a religious fanatic espousing how his religion is the best, and then denouncing somebody else for his alleged misbehavior?

    Follow this edict from the Old Testament and you will truly be a better person:

    Judge not, lest ye be judged.

    LAWYER JOHN

  • danny

    dr. mario—

    not trying to slander or disrespect neuheisel at all. I was just pointing out it is not your responsibility to always tell the press everything you are thinking. Having a media strategy is wise, and that doesn’t mean they get to know everything. Do you think a coach always tells the press his game plan when they ask about it? No, that would be foolish. Just pointing out that XSF has no burden to tell the press anything just because they ask him.

  • danny

    one thing that rarely gets discussed when something like this happens—athletic scholarships are one-year commitments. UCLA doesn’t promise these kids four years, nor does anybody else. I think that it would make more sense to offer the kids a four-year deal and then it would be possible to request four (or five, including a redshirt year) in return. There are enough dollars in athletic department budgets that a kid who doesn’t pan out football-wise should still get his education paid for. It would be nice if the NCAA allowed those scholarships to not be counted against the limits for kids who aren’t sticking around.

  • Anonymous

    Are the rumors true that Robert Woods is committed to UCLA.

  • Anonymous

    Robert Woods to UCLA!!!!!!!!

  • Bruinword

    Robert Woods is not going to be a Bruin.. He is SOLID with USC

  • Anonymous

    Robert Woods not going to UCLA. Unfortunately, we have some delusional fans

  • Voice of Reason

    LOL who actually thinks Robert Woods will end up at UCLA after committing pretty early to USC and then seeing Damien Williams defect for the NFL? The kid is a rock solid trojan so quit spreading rumors because that exactly what they are and nothing more.