Let me start with this, the best quote ever:
I always wanted to come back to U.C.L.A.
Welcome home, Xavier Su'a-Filo.
Line wins games.
You've seen me post this once or twice or a hundred times before. It's because it is true, and IEAngel will back me up on this. Before you need a great QB, or great TB, or great LB, you need to have a great offensive line. The big uglies up front are the difference between a good rusher and a game breaker; between a solid QB and one who can pick defenses apart. Without a good offensive line, the highlight guys just get a lot of dirt on the back of their jerseys.
Xavier Su'a-Filo was a 4 star and top ten offensive lineman prospect in 2009 when he joined U.C.L.A. from Timpview HS in Provo,
Spain Utah. The hype was justified. XSF became the Bruins' first true freshman offensive starter in an opener. The freshman went on to start all 13 games in 2009 at the critical left tackle position as a freshman. He made various All Pac-10 teams and All-Freshman Pac-10 lists after his rookie season, and then left Westwood to go on a 2 year LDS mission in Alabama and Florida.
Now he is back, and our O Line just got a hell of a lot better.
Another huge HT to Jon Gold for this interview with XSF embedded below (and HT to N for Fanshotting it earlier today). and for the extended parts transcribed on his blog Inside UCLA here and here. There were some key parts of the interview that I wanted to highlight to show why I think XSF will be the most important addition to our team next season
There are extended entires on Gold's blog....We all know that the plot of the U.C.L.A. Offensive Line over the last few years was like a Shakepearean tragedy. Injuries, departures, transfers, suspensions, pretty much everything except killing kings and marrying their widows. Departing Senior Mike Harris was the only thing reliable on an OL that was everything but. We have given lots of credit to OL Coach Bob Palcic for his great job the last few seasons putting to gather a serviceable OL with whatever parts were available. The solid performance by the Bruins' running game this season (top 40 in the country at 178 ypg) while often facing defenses with an extra man in the box, speaks to the good work by the coach and the good efforts by the players. But the Bruins' OL has not been considered dominant for a long time - not since the 90's when Kris Farris and Jonathan Ogden were winning Outland Trophies. That may be about to change. With XSF, we have a sophomore who does not just have potential but has an established pedigree on the OL. Assuming the return of top lineman Jeff Baca, the continued development of Greg Capella, Wade Yandall, Chris Ward, and Alberto Cid, all of whom got a lot of experience this season, and another year of development by a solid 2011 freshman class from last season, we have the buildings of a very good OL. With the additions of our current 2012 commits, we will now even have some real quality depth. The return of a giant hammer at left tackle makes this an extremely promising unit.
Aside from XSF's skill in the trenches, I am really excited to have someone of his character and maturity joining this team. In the interviews, XSF discusses the uncertainty following coaching changes, learning about his new head coach, his dedication to U.C.L.A., how his LDS mission shaped his personality and character, his ambition to get a degree, and his return to the football field. Watching the video portion of the interview, you can't help liking this kid. He is very well spoken and personable, and is clearly at ease discussing very personal and serious topics. XSF is clearly comfortable with himself, without being cocky or arrogant. Through it all, his maturity and outlook point to a young man who can become a great leader for this program.
Some of the excerpted quotes below show why I am so positive about this kid.
He is grounded and humble:
"But the mission experience I had was one that changed my life and really helped me in a variety of ways: to be a better man, to become a better person, to be humble. To know how to shape my life better."
"But I've already seen a change in myself. Going to class, my study habits, just the way I talk to people, how I'm able to present myself in front of people. Little things I've noticed about myself, tiny little disciplinary things that came from serving a mission."
"I've noticed them myself, but people around me have noticed a change, too...Now I'm at this stage, and it's school, back in football, my relationships with family and loved ones, the things that are really important, and I'm able to zero in on them, have a balance and really focus. I'm able not to be so distracted."
At the same time, he sounds driven and hungry:
Gold: "How bad do you want to hit someone?"
XSF: (laughs) "Come on, man!. I want to hit somebody bad, man! I haven't had pads on in two years since my last game....When you turn on game mode, you don't have any friends. You worry about doing your job...especially when you love your job, you usually do it well. And so, man, I just can't wait to get back out there and put on the pads because I want to hit again."
There has been a lot of talk recently here on BN how, given the entrenched culture in this program and the Athletic Department, this team needs leaders to establish a new identity as winners, both on the field and more importantly in life. XSF sounds like someone who understands his place in life and is ready to accept the responsibilities that come with it.
I'm not perfect. I'm not even close...It made me love service, be more charitable, be a more loving person, to really care about things that matter and have great perspective and change my priorities in life.
Regardless of which, if any, church one subscribes to, these ideals work for everyone. XSF's words sound a lot like something Coach might have said, and that is a perfect place to start.
The video and two written interviews are a great reintroduction to a Bruin that we have sorely missed on the field. Luckily, we have every reason to be really excited about Xavier Su'a-Filo's return to Westwood, both on and off the field.