UCLA offensive tackle Xavier Su’a-Filo arrived in 2009 to much fanfare, the team’s highest-rated offensive line recruit in more than a decade.
His return from a two-year mission, though, might be even more crucial to the Bruins.
I sat down with Su’a-Filo for an hour to talk about faith and football, about how he’s changed in two years, and more importantly to UCLA football fans, how he’s stayed the same. So, to clarify: He is 310 pounds, grew a little taller, worked out on his own quite often, and he expects to be rounding into shape come spring football, with a target goal of getting to his post-freshman level by the fall.
More importantly to him, though, was his change from boyhood to manhood during what was a trying two-year period of his life.
Check out our chat below…
JG: Which coaches went out to see you when you got back, and what did that feel like?
XSF: Man, it made me feel great. (Recruiting coordinator/defensive line coach) Angus McClure called and said he was bringing Coach Klemm and Coach Mora to introduce themselves to me, and I was very excited. Those were the two guys I wanted to meet, naturally. When they told me they were coming over, then I got to sit down and my parents got to sit down and feel comfortable with coach Mora and coach Klemm. I was really able to connect with them and build a different relationship than I had with coach Neuheisel and coach Palcic. They’re completely different coaches. But I still felt comfortable with them. It was nice. It was comforting to know that my coaches, who hadn’t met me yet, flew out to come and see me as soon as I got home because they were excited and want to meet me and still wanted me to come and play.”
JG: How do you stack up to 19-year old Su’a-Filo?
XSF: “I think I’m more of a man. A man’s body. I’m still starting to fill in muscle-wise, in terms of density. But I’m still raw man. I haven’t sat down like I will this next year – this winter, spring, summer, fall – that I’ll be able to train hard for football. Where I stack up? I’m still me. I got a little taller. I’m about 310, 312. I’m out of shape a little but I’m getting back into it. I feel good. I feel like when I lift, I’ll be able to have man strength, and not boy strength. My freshman year, I really struggled with that. I played, but after every game, not a little people know that I was beat up, man. I was beat up. I was in that ice bath hanging out in the training room. Icing, icing and resting. Those games, being 18 years old and playing against those men was tough.
JG: At what point do you have to click the football back on?
CSF: “Ooh. I know what you mean, like it hasn’t hit me yet that way. I’m still thinking about that. I don’t know when it’s going to click back on. It’s slowly starting to. When I was getting home and working out again, I was thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m going to be playing football.” But I think when we get in pads and strap up a helmet, it will click.”
JG: Do you want to hit someone?
XSF: “Oh yeah. Oh yeah, man. Come on bro. It’s been too long. It’s been toooo long. Too long.”