No matter how hard Marcus Tuiaososopo tries, he doesn’t blend in.
It starts with his name, but even if you didn’t know who he was you would notice him on a football field.
Standing at free safety, Tuiaososopo towers above other defensive backs and most receivers with his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame. Then it’s his actions, always around the ball or ballcarrier. Get closer and you’ll hear him call out defensive signals or encourage a teammate. And he’s a quarterback.
But first, his name, which may be hard to pronounce or spell but is easy to remember because his father, Manu, was a defensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks from 1979 though 1983. Marcus, though, would stand above the crowd if his name were Smith.
“I just go out and play,” Tuiaososopo said. “Go 100 percent and good things are going to happen. Just because of my name, I’m not any different than the other guys. It takes 11 players.”
He just happens to be one of the best ones. And he does stand out. Tuiaososopo may not take many snaps at quarterback Friday night during the East-West Summer Classic at Albi Stadium. That’s because his West team also boasts Drew Miller, one of the most prolific passers in Washington high school history. However, he will be on the field frequently, and West coach Larry Lunke of Anacortes is a believer.
“I told the other players five or six years from now they’ll be able to say they played with him,” Lunke said. “I know a lot of colleges wanted him as a defensive back, and he’s a great free safety, but he’s a quarterback. You’ll see him play on Sundays, barring injury.”
Tuiaososopo was in the middle of the great quarterback debate during his senior year at Woodinville. Is he a defensive back playing quarterback or a quarterback who doubles on defense?
Any college recruiter who thought DB first was last on his list.
“I made it pretty easy. I wanted to go to college as a quarterback. I only considered the schools that would let me play the quarterback position,” Tuiaososopo said. “Most teams wanted me to play defensive back.”
He narrowed his choices to Washington, Notre Dame, California and his dad’s alma mater, UCLA, before finding peace with a commitment to the Huskies.
He has no grudges against the schools making a pitch for a big free safety. After all, good DB’s are almost as hard to find as good quarterbacks. DB’s with his size are harder to find than good quarterbacks. Besides, his numbers were modest, 35 of 75 passing for 679 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“Because of the offense we ran in high school, the option, we didn’t throw the ball enough,” he said. “I really like the quarterback position. I played defense because I was needed. Free safety is fun but I like the control, I like the responsibility of the quarterback position.
Defensive coaches couldn’t help but be impressed with his size and athletic ability. Tuiaososopo the quarterback ran for 1,042 yards and 19 TDs on 89 carries. Tuiaososopo the free safety intercepted four passes, made 53 tackles and recovered two fumbles.
It worked for the Falcons, who were 10-0 and ranked No. 1 before being upset in the State AAA quarterfinals by South Kitsap.
“He was as good as any athlete we’ve ever played against,” longtime South Kitsap coach Ed Fisher said.
Woodinville coach Terry Agnew, an assistant with the West team this week, said, “He’s just a tremendous, gifted athlete. He’s very competitive. He hates to lose. And he wants others around him to step up and play as hard and as well as he does.”
The real battle for Tuiaososopo wasn’t between offense and defense but between football and baseball, and his final four colleges told him he could give the spring sport a try.
“Baseball got serious considerations,” he said. “One of my dreams is to play in the major leagues.
The Falcons shortstop batted .526 his senior year and was considered a potential high first-round draft choice. He didn’t go until late in the draft, to the Twins, possibly because of his commitment to the Huskies.
“I guess I can assume that,” he said of the low draft position. “I thought I had a pretty good senior year. Everyone we talked to I said I was serious (about playing baseball).”
Shadle Park linebacker Jeff Lafferty, the Greater Spokane League defensive MVP, decided not to play in the game. He wanted to concentrate on baseball… . Pullman linebacker Serign Marong also passed. He has a hamstring injury suffered in track season. …
Drew Miller set 10 state records while quarterbacking at Lakes in Tacoma and earning a scholarship to Brigham Young. He finished with 9,003 yards, tops in Washington, almost 3,000 more than the previous best established by Mark Rypien at Shadle Park and No. 11 nationally. He exceeded 300 yards in 17 of his 33 career games. He threw for 101 touchdowns, 40 more than the old AAA record and completed 608 passes, almost 200 more than the previous mark.
Today’s sports medicine clinic and the coaching clinic Thursday and Friday are at Cavanaugh’s River Inn.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: TICKET INFO Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students. They are available through G&B; Select-A-Seat.