D-Linemen: Romney Fuga and Eathyn Manumaleuna
Growing up, many young boys dream of playing college football and many dream of coming here to be a BYU Cougar. Both Romney Fuga and Eathyn Manumaleuna wanted to play college football and have interesting paths that brought them here to play.
Fuga grew up always playing football with his brothers and on a flag football team. Playing with them was always fun but it wasn’t until he was in high school that his mom allowed him to play tackle football on a team.
“My mom didn’t want us to play tackle football because she thought we would get hurt,” Fuga said. “Also, I was a little bigger and so I would have had to play in the age group above me and I don’t think she would have liked that either.”
That first year, Fuga played on the freshman team and the biggest adjustment he had to make was playing in pads.
“I didn’t really like wearing a helmet,” Fuga said. “Even now I just don’t like wearing pads. I wish we could play football without pads.”
He played well that year and was named to the varsity team his sophomore year. You wouldn’t know he didn’t like playing in pads because following that year Fuga was named to the All-League team and started getting a lot of interest from many colleges.
Because Manumaleuna grew up in Alaska, he was far away from the hype of BYU football. It wasn’t until later in his high school career that he thought about coming to BYU because his family pushed him to do so.
He is only second player from the state of Alaska to play on the BYU football team. The first player was Aaron McCubbins who played offensive line for the Cougars back in 1997-2001. Growing up in there, he learned to play football from his dad.
“My dad taught me how to play football,” Manumaleuna said. “Wherever I was, as long as I was with my dad, it was a good learning experience.”
According to Manumaleuna, the biggest difference if football between Alaska and the lower 48 states is the competition. Because of this, in order for BYU to know who he was, he had to make the first effort.
“They didn’t really go up to Alaska to recruit,” Manumaleuna said. “I had to come down here to a couple of camps to get noticed.
After coming to a couple of camps, he was offered a scholarship and committed right away. He chose BYU not only because of the team, but also for the atmosphere and the great history of his family being here.
His mom is the sister of former BYU coach Robert Anae and that allowed him to come down and better prepare for college and play with his cousin Famika at Timpview High School in Provo.
The move worked out for Manumaleuna because he was able to play against better competition and he was selected to the All-State team while winning the State Championship that year.
Fuga arrived at BYU in 2006 and was a significant contributor on the defense that was ranked 10th nationally in points allowed per game. He knew he wanted to serve a mission and was called to serve in the Madagascar Antananarivo mission following his freshman year.
While he was on his mission, he was contacted by ESPN Magazine to see if they could do a story on Mormon athletes and what they do on missions.
“I told them to contact my mission president and didn’t think anything of it,” Fuga said. “A little while later, I got a call from him saying they were going to come out and take pictures of me being a missionary.”
The cameraman followed him everywhere and tried to see what he did as a missionary. The story came out when he got home and was put together in pictures and words documenting what missionaries do.
“It was a neat experience but different at the same time,” Fuga said. “They followed us everywhere; from personal study to lunch and lessons. I think it gave a good impression of what we do as missionaries.”
Manumaleuna joined the BYU football team in 2007 and was an instant contributor, starting every game at nose tackle.
Many fans will probably remember him that year for preserving the win in the Las Vegas Bowl by blocking the game winning field goal by UCLA.
“The kicker was on fire that game,” Manumaleuna said. “He had made two field goals that were at least 50 yards with ease.” UCLA drove the ball down and had a chance to win the game with a 20-yard with three seconds left in the game.
Everyone gave their all on the play and their collective effort resulted in Manumaleuna getting his hand on the ball and blocking the kick.
“I touched the ball and didn’t think it wasn’t going to be good,” Manumaleuna said. “So I turned around and I was surprised it missed. I don’t think I have run harder in my life. Everyone was celebrating on the field, it was a great way to send the seniors out that year.”
Following that season, Manumaleuna went on his mission as well. He served in the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma mission.
‘It was the best time of my life,” Manumaleuna said. “I learned so many things and am grateful for the chance I had to go.”
Fuga came back from his mission in 2009 and played a year before Manumaleuna came back from his mission.
The 2010 season was looking to be a strong season with a very experienced defensive line. Both were excited to play together until Fuga’s season took a turn for the worst in the fourth game of the season against Nevada.
Fuga was in pursuit of the running back when he was given a questionable block to his lower leg. The result? A torn ACL and LCL and ending his season.
“Once it happened, I knew I had blown out my knee,” Fuga said. “I told the doctors I was done. It was a hard injury to overcome but it ended up being a blessing in the long run.”
Fuga applied for a medical redshirt and was awarded an extra year of eligibility and will finish his degree, graduating this April. During that game, fellow defensive lineman Vic So’oto wore Fuga’s jersey in the second half to honor all the hard work he had put in for that year.
Manumaleuna says So’oto doing that really helped the defensive line to create a greater unity and that has helped him and Fuga the past two years they have played together. Now Manumaleuna hopes for a medical redshirt after his knee injury earlier this season at Boise State.
That friendship and trust has developed and grown and was manifested last year during the Armed Forces Bowl game.
“In the bowl game last year I was feeling pretty sick,” Manumaleuna said. “I was able to ask Romney for a blessing and it really helped me out. Something like that is a great examples as to the person Romney is.”
One memory Manumaleuna will take with him from his time at BYU was an interception he had in 2010 against New Mexico.
The defense ran a stunt that had called for him to replace the defensive end and put him right in the path of the screen play they were running.
“I didn’t think the quarterback was going to throw it at me,” Manumaleuna said. “But I caught it and ran and ran and ran but I got caught from behind. But it was still my first interception in college so that was pretty cool.”
Both Fuga and Manumaleuna fortify a defensive line that returned seven starters from last season and ranked 13th nationally in total defense.
Starting all 13 games last year, Fuga and Manumaleuna had 25 and 33 total tackle respectively. Both have goals to help the defense to be better than they were last year.
Fuga continues to be part of a tough defense and wants to be the guy everyone looks to for energy.
“I want to be part of a physical and dominating defense,” Fuga said. “Personally, I want to be the guy my teammates can look to for energy. There are times when we can be in hole in a game and I want to be able to keep them motivated.”
Manumaleuna had hoped to be part of a physical defense as well and be able to showcase what he has done in the off season.
“I want to do my job and my assignment each game,” Manumaleuna said. “But I also want to make plays. I want to make a statement each game and show people how hard I worked in the off season.”
With NFL scouts watching each game this year, both know every game is important not only for the team but also for their futures as well.
Fuga and Manumaleuna arrived at BYU on different paths and have had many different experiences that have made their careers unique to them. They both hope to continue on the same road and play professionally and go wherever that path takes them.
PHO·NET·I·CAL·EE, IN NAMES
A name is something that defines who you are. You can be given a good strong name to live with or be named after someone important in your family’s history.
For many members on the team, they have strong family names that mean a lot to them. But because of their heritage, many people can’t pronounce them correctly.
For Eathyn Manumaleuna, he has grown up knowing many people can’t say or spell his name correctly. For many announcers, most try and quickly say his name or they avoid the name altogether and just call him by his first name.
He understands the struggles people might have because he himself couldn’t spell his name correctly until he was in fourth grade. But he says if people just ask him how to say his name correctly, he will gladly help them to know how to pronounce it the right way.
At first glance, his name looks daunting. But looking at it slowly and sounding out the letters, it is easier to say. The correct way to say his last name is Mah-noo-mah-lay-oo-nah. It actually gets easier to say if you say it faster and multiple times.
The presidential elections are bringing a lot of questions about his name. With many wondering if he was named after presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Which is interesting because Fuga was born before Mitt Romney became a big name in politics. He actually got his name from his dad who is also named Romney. His parents listened to Elder Marion G. Romney when he came to Samoa to speak to members of the church there and really liked what he said and they named their son Romney. His last name is also tricky. At first glance it looks pretty easy. It’s only four letters and they are all pretty basic. But if you talk to him and ask him to say his name and listen closely, there is a hidden letter that doesn’t appear. Most will say his name Fuga but he correctly pronounces it with a silent ‘n’ like Foon-ga.
Imagine a roster is full of tongue twisters for announcers because BYU has many players on the team with Pacific Island heritage. This year the Cougars have over 20 players on the roster with Polynesian background and it’s easy to see how difficult it would be.
Below is the pronunciation guide provided to the announcers at the games. See how many you can get right without looking at the guide and then try to take the role of an announcer and say them correctly as if you were giving a play-by-play of the game.
Michael Alisa Ah-lees-ah
Famika Anae Fa-mee-kah Ah-nye
Ross Apo Ah-po
Scott Arellano Ar-eh-yawn-o
Ezekiel Ansah Aahn-saah
Tui Crichton Too-ee Cry-ton
Ian Dulan Doo-lawn
DeQuan Everett Deh-kwan
JD Falslev False-lev
Kaneakua Friel Kaw-nay-ah-koo-ah Free-el
Alani Fua Ah-la-nee Foo-ah
Romney Fuga Foong-ah
Mike Hague Haygh
Jacob Hannemann Hann-ah-man
Micah Hannemann Mike-ah Hann-ah-man
Adam Hine Hee-nay
Terenn Houk Tare-enn Howk
Marques Johnson Mar-cus
Solomone Kafu So-low-mo-nay Kah-foo
Bronson Kaufusi Brawn-son Kah-foo-see
Teu Kautai Tay-oo Cow-tie
Uona Kaveinga Whoa-nah Kah-vin-gah
Paul Lasike Lah-see-kay
Lene Lesetele Leh-nay Less-uh-tell-ay
Jherremya Leuta-Douyere Jeremiah Loo-tah Doy-er
Devin Mahina Mah-hee-nah
Eathyn Manumaleuna Ee-thin Mah-noo-mah-lay-oo-nah
Butch Pau’u Pah-oo-oo
Manoa Pikula Mah-no-ah Pee-koo-la
Iona Pritchard Yo-nah
Stehly Reden Stay-lee Red-en
Russell Tialavea Tee-al-uh-vay-uh
Blair Tushaus Tus-house
Uani ‘Unga Wahn-ee Oon-gah
Manaaki Vaitai Mah-nah-kee Vie-tie
Simote Vea See-mo-tay Vay-ah
BYU football wrapped up its first week of fall camp with its fifth practice on Saturday morning.