There is definitely no mistaking SRJC student Mike Tuaua when he walks around campus. The 6-foot, 3 inch, 260-pound freshman with a mane of reddish-brown hair, thick eyebrows and a warm Samoan smile is one the Bear Cubs’ best football players this season.
At an early age, Tuaua knew sports was something he wanted to pursue. But unlike most kids, Tuaua never had the experience of playing Pop Warner football.
“I couldn’t play sports at an earlier age because I am the second oldest child, and I had younger siblings to look out for,” Tuaua said. “I also went to church on Sundays and this made football hard to fit into my schedule.”
It was at Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park where Tuaua’s football career ultimately began. He received First-Team All League his junior and senior year for both tight end and defensive end. When his school visited an annual Reno football camp, Tuaua got All-Camp tight end his junior year and All-Camp defensive end his senior year. By playing both offense and defense, Tuaua demonstrated his dominance on both sides of the ball. To mark his final high school accomplishments, he led his team to the North Coast Section Division II Championship game against Concord High School at the Oakland Coliseum, after which Tuaua received the award for Defensive Player of the Year.
After high school, Tuaua decided to attend SRJC and continue playing football. However, his career was brought to a halt during his first game against College of the Siskiyous, when Tuaua broke his leg, causing him to sit out for the rest of the season. He received a medical exemption for the season, giving him four years of college eligibility.
Tuaua was able to look at the injury in a positive way. “For me it was kind of a blessing that I broke my leg because it gave me a chance to really focus on school,” he said. “I was able to knock some of my core classes that I needed to take, out of the way.”
By the spring, Tuaua could participate in practice and learned how to juggle both school and football at the same time. “It definitely can be a struggle sometimes, but I learned how to adapt,” he said.
Tuaua represents Bear Cub football not just on the field, but on campus as well. “He is a student athlete, he doesn’t miss anything and he’s on time,” said head coach Keith Simons. “He’s the kind of guy that we need to have in our program.”
Ever since he has been a part of the football program, it is easy to see Tuaua’s growth as player. This year, Tuaua has to take on another responsibility as one of the Bear Cubs’ defensive captains. With this title, he must demonstrate leadership, while also being a role model for his teammates.
Being a dominant force on the field wouldn’t hurt either. So far this season in the Nor Cal Conference, Tuaua is ranked third overall in sacks (five) and ranked fourth overall in tackles per game (7.6). “He’s one of those players who works hard, practices hard and plays hard,” Simons said. “He’s the kind of guy where you can watch our defense for four plays and say, ‘Wow, who’s number 55?’”
Although it is Tuaua’s first year playing at SRJC, he already has Division I schools talking to him. Most recently, Texas Christian University has shown interest in the young defensive end. Tuaua plans to finish his second year as a Bear Cub and there is no doubt that more schools will be contacting him.
The Bear Cubs are half way through their season with a record of 2-3, and Tuaua hopes to get his team back on the right track. “We definitely still have a shot at making it to state,” Tuaua said. “We need to work together as a team, focus, play hard and keep believing in each other because anything is possible.”
The Bear Cubs’ first conference game is in Oroville against 5-0 Butte College at 1 p.m. Oct. 13. The next home game is The Clo Classic against Foothill at 7 p.m. Oct. 20.