Andre Lino has carried a lunch pail longer than he can remember.
It’s called work ethic, and his parents brought it all the way across the Pacific from their native Tonga to the Puget Sound when Lino was just a year old.
Lino has brought it all the way to Cheney.
“Ever since I was a little kid, they’ve instilled in me the value of hard work,” Lino said of parents Viliami and Alisi Lino.
“Their dream was for me to get a college education,” said Lino, who has done them proud. He’s carrying a 3.66 grade-point average while majoring in mechanical engineering and paying his own way, thanks to football.
“Actually, I’m not that excited for school to start,” laughed Lino, a senior defensive lineman who faces another fall of juggling books and opposing ball carriers.
But that work ethic will see him through, to a pro football career or otherwise.
“It’s impossible not to respect a kid like that,” said Brian Strandley, a defensive line coach for the Eagles.
Apparently, Lino’s teammates felt the same way when the time came to pick team captains. Lino voted for someone else, and was surprised when he won.
“I could see myself as a leader, but I never imagined myself as a captain,” said Lino, a 23-game starter and All-Big Sky Conference academic selection.
“But I’m trying not to get a big head about it,” Lino said.
The coaches weren’t surprised.
“As soon as he walks into the room, he doesn’t have to say a word, but he’s respected,” Strandley said.
On the field, Lino plays bigger than his 6-foot-3, 280-pound frame. Starting at the “3-Technique” tackle position and lining up alongside nose tackle Jay-Tee Tiuli, he’s primarily been a run-stuffer.
With the graduation of sackmaster Samson Ebukam at defensive end, everyone must step up in the pass rush, while improving against the run at the same time.
That’s a tall order, but Lino is plenty motivated going into his senior year. Following the 40-38 FCS playoff loss to Youngstown State last year, “I just felt raw,” Lino said.
“I went through a lot of different emotions, but one of the questions was, ‘How did this happen?’ It took a couple of days to really get over it and see the season in a positive way,” said Lino, who had 32 tackles last year.
That season included an 11-2 record and a Big Sky title, but Lino expects more in his final season as an Eagle.
Another measuring stick is perennial FCS power North Dakota State, which beat the Eagles last year in 50-44 overtime and comes to Cheney this week.
“We did a lot of good things last year, but we have that chip on our shoulder,” said Lino, applauding first-year coach Aaron Best’s emphasis on physicality on both sides of the ball.
“Being more physical, more dominant, that’s been a big focus – NDSU and Youngstown, we want to be able to stop those kind of teams.”
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