TV star lineman Fanene to join in summer

2010-02-12T00:00:00Z 2014-09-15T09:01:26Z TV star lineman Fanene to join in summer Ryan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 12, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Aiulua Fanene made his national television debut last month, when he appeared in a "60 Minutes" segment about the popularity of football in American Samoa.

He'll return to the airwaves starting this fall.

Fanene, a defensive tackle from Pago Pago's Tafuna High School, signed a national letter of intent with the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday. He will enroll in school this summer and should compete for playing time when the UA opens its season Sept. 3 against Toledo on ESPN.

Fanene, the younger brother of Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Jonathan Fanene, is one of the island's top football prospects. The 6-foot-4-inch, 285-pound Fanene advanced to the island's championship game as a senior at Tafuna and played in the Samoa-Hawaii All-Star Bowl. He chose Arizona over Oregon State.

"He's a big athlete who we've really liked," UA assistant Mike Tuiasosopo said. "Guys who are 6-4, 285 just don't fall out of trees. Our emphasis is trying to get bigger and longer on the D-line, and this helps."

Fanene was one of two high school players featured in a Jan. 17 "60 Minutes" segment entitled "Football Island." Video cameras showed Fanene clearing brush and sweeping floors for his family, which includes 11 siblings and his parents, David and Anna.

"He's just a neat kid," Tuiasosopo said. "This is what he wants to do."

Tuiasosopo will visit Fanene in American Samoa this spring. The UA has a long history with the island; former defensive linemen Joe Salave'a and Young Thompson are among a handful of former UA players who grew up there.

Reporter Scott Pelley also interviewed Fanene and his father, and Pelley traveled to Cincinnati to meet Jonathan Fanene for the "60 Minutes" segment.

The Bengals defensive end, in a roundabout way, is responsible for his younger brother's commitment.

Tuiasosopo recruited Jonathan Fanene to Utah while he was a Utes assistant in 2003. Fanene played two seasons at Utah; the Bengals selected him in the seventh round of the 2005 draft.

The addition of Fanene only adds to the broad appeal of the 2010 recruiting class. The UA signed 20 players a week ago from nine states.

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