In the wake of the BYU Rugby team's first National Championship win, BYU Rugby Forever continues the "Interview of the Week" series.
This week's guest is BYU's starting winger, Manti Su'a.
Although Manti was unable to play in the final against Cal due to injury, his efforts throughout the season, as well as in tournament play, nevertheless helped propel BYU to the top after all was said and done.
BYU Rugby Forever: How has being a member of the BYU Rugby team impacted your life? your future goals/plans?
Manti Su'a: Having had the opportunity to play for the team has been a huge blessing.
From a scholastic point of view, I learned very early that I would have to plan out my week in advance and learn how to effectively balance my schedule and use my time wisely.
From a long-term perspective, it helped me to figure out which direction I want my life to go and how to set and accomplish goals to ensure I get there.
I went to the finals three times with my team; two of those times we came up short in the end. Each season took a lot self-evaluation and introspection. I’d ask myself, “what aren’t you doing to make this team better?”
Once I knew what I needed to do, it was just a matter of implementing it into every training session and every game.
BRF: What were the greatest moments/highlights of the 2008-09 season for you?
MS: The first moment that comes to mind was against Arkansas State in the round of eight. It was an all-out battle from the second the match started.
At the half we were losing (which I think was the first time we’d been down at the half all season), and I was pretty frustrated. When the second half started, I glanced over at our inside center Tupu, and he was staring at me just laughing! I was so caught off-guard that I started cracking up too!
That little exchange calmed me down and gave me back my confidence. Minutes later my “baby” brother Mikey got the ball and ran hard and strong right at Arkansas State, laying a couple of their boys out. After that, the intensity went through the roof—and the rest was history.
Another memorable moment was when we played the University of Utah at home on South Field. The game was being covered by ESPNU, the stadium was packed, and it seemed like our team was totally in sync.
With about ten seconds left in the game, our backs got the ball and attacked from about twenty meters out. I got the ball on the wing after our fullback, Sam Thorley, made an amazing pass which allowed me to score.
All I remember was how loud the stadium got. It was pretty crazy!
BRF: You were injured in the Big Four match against San Diego State. What exactly happened, and how are you feeling now?
MS: Late in the first half, we kicked the ball straight out from a kick-off. There was a little confusion on the field that resulted in one of the players from San Diego State with a break-away run down the sideline. I chased him down and dove to tackle him, and in the process I got kicked in the face resulting in a broken nose and some eye damage.
I had to have some minor surgery that night which kept me sidelined for the finals. It was a bummer that I couldn’t play in the finals, but I was really proud of our true freshman, wing Jordan Lowry, for stepping up to the challenge and playing amazing in the championship.
I’m doing a lot better now, except when I asked the doctor if he could do anything about the ugliness in my face. He replied that the unattractiveness was present before the accident and unless I wanted to undergo some serious surgical procedures, I’d be stuck with this face forever. I happily declined.
BRF: Some fans don't know that starting prop 'Big Mikey' is your younger brother. Did that relationship affect or influence your performance on the field?
MS: It really did. It’s a huge confidence-builder knowing that I’m taking the field with him. We like to get each other fired up for each game, but we also joke around and calm each other down when we need it.
We’ve been playing sports together since I was in second grade and we wore the same size clothes! Over the years we’ve learned how to read each other and work together.
BRF: Thoughts on the future of the BYU Rugby team? Counsel, suggestions, ideas?
MS: I look at the younger guys on the team and see not just talent and skill, but a good group of guys that are coachable. Apart from that, the coaching staff (Smyth, Tarawhiti, Kjar and Nadauld) are amazing at what they do. Each game we knew exactly what we were up against and what we needed to do to win.
My only counsel to the future players is to listen to the coaches, because they know how to win and to dedicate yourself to being the best athlete you can be.
And that means not only physically, but also mentally—by taking care of everything in the classroom, so when it’s time for rugby, you can focus on rugby, knowing that you’ve all ready taken care of school.
BRF: If you could say anything to all the BYU Rugby alumni and fans out there, what would you say?
MS: Thanks for all the support for the past three years! Playing in front of so many amazing fans made my three years of BYU rugby some of the greatest memories of my college experience.
BYU rugby wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for the alumni and fans. Thanks for everything!