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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Two brothers and their cousin bring homeliness to football team

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Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The first, last name that comes to mind on the Arizona football team is Stoops, as in head coach Mike Stoops and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.

The two brothers played safety in the 1980s at the University of Iowa and Mike played at the same time as his older brother Bob, the current head coach at Oklahoma. But there’s a group on this year’s Arizona team that has the Stoops boys beat.

“”It’s like everybody from back home is back here now,”” said senior linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka. “”Last year, I always looked to the right and Apai was there. Now, I look to my right and Apai is there and I look to me left and Sione is on my left. It’s more of a homey feeling with all of us here.””

Cousins Vuna, 22, and Apaiata, 20, were both on the squad last year. This season, Apaiata’s younger brother Sione, 18, is also on the Wildcat team, giving the squad a troika of Tuihalamakas at its disposal. The fact they are even on the same team at the same time carries a large significance.

“”I think it helps the transition from high school to college, I don’t think there’s any question about that,”” Stoops said. “”Having somebody to lean on in every aspect of life — to me, that’s the greatest benefit. There are struggles and trials that you experience through college that can get somewhat taxing. To have family to lean on to — and I know how close those guys are — I think it helps them too.””

But this isn’t the first time Vuna, Apaiata and Sione have suited up together. In fact, football wasn’t even their first love. When they were growing up they frequently played rugby together.

“”That’s all we played. It was our first sport,”” Apaiata said. “”We looked at it as fun on our free time away from gang violence and affiliation. Our communities used rugby, just like everybody else uses skateboarding, basketball, youth programs, that kind of thing.””

Each made their own transition to football and eventually made their way to Arizona. Vuna came by way of El Camino (California) Community College while Apaiata and Sione came to Tucson straight out of high school. Each player is different in appearance and personality as well. Vuna’s trademark long, black hair is always noticeable from underneath his helmet.

“”Vuna probably uses more shampoo than women,”” Apaiata said with a chuckle, adding that Pantene Pro-V is Vuna’s top choice.

Apaiata was unanimously chosen as the jokester. Vuna said his cousin’s light-hearted, positive demeanor is a plus for the team.

Sione is a mixture of his cousin and his brother, his relatives said. He cracks jokes every now and then and isn’t as quite as reserved as Vuna.

Each with their own style, the Tuihalamakas push on each other during practices and work outs — not to mention in the classroom — and that gives each player more motivation to draw from.

“”There’s always competition. Every day when I wake up it’s a competition, and it’s good for us,”” Apaiata said. “”We already had that growing up with each other and hopefully we can teach (Sione) the right way through college and the way to succeed in this program.””

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