Sept. 21, 2005
BERKELEY, CALIF. - By KIMBERLEY HOIDAL
Most collegiate football players do not have the opportunity to explore other avenues of life during the fall season. They are often boggled down each week with the tedious physical and mental game preparations and rigorous school work.
For California's 6-4, 260-pound senior defensive end Tosh Lupoi, a career-altering foot fracture before the start of the 2004 season gave him the opportunity to explore.
"For the first time ever, I basically explored arenas of life that I've never done before," said Lupoi, who is from nearby Walnut Creek and was an all-state performer for the famed high school football program, De La Salle. "I was able to invest more into my education. I was able to do things that you cannot do when you are in season, such as mentoring and tutoring at Wilson Middle School, and involving myself a little more in the community."
One of the community projects Lupoi took on last year was a food drive during the week of the 2004 Big Game. Lupoi, along with former Cal receiver Chase Lyman, who was also out with an injury, asked fans to bring canned food donations to the Nov. 20 Big Game held in Berkeley.
"Having lived in this community it is easy to find someone less fortunate," Lupoi said. "You have to find ways to help others. It's something my family has always done. It's just awesome to help, and Cal football is a great resource because there are so many individuals who can get involved."
In June, Lupoi organized several Cal football players to assist him in volunteering to serve food to the homeless at the College Avenue Presbyterian Church in Berkeley.
"It's just something I've been taught by my family to always involve yourself in the community - just realizing how fortunate I am everyday, the shelter I have, the food I have and the clothes I have on my back," said Lupoi, whose father, John, played football at BYU in the early `70s and helped as a part-time football assistant for the Bears in the mid-`70s. "It makes you realize how many people don't have the same things as you."
Not only has Lupoi given back to the community in several different ways, he's somehow found time to build a dog breeding business with former Cal linebacker Wendell Hunter earlier this year.
"We both had a passion and love for dogs," Lupoi said. "We started laying a foundation so that when we graduate, we could start a business together. Wendell was ready to go in May, but with the foot injury I was set back a year. But we still put a business together, and it's now extremely successful."
As a starter during the 2003 season, Lupoi tallied 37 tackles (26 solo) along with three quarterback sacks. He was outstanding in the Bears' victory over Virginia Tech in the Insight Bowl, recording three tackles, including a sack, and was the recipient of the team's Ken Cotton Award as the squad's most courageous player, competing in the final four regular season games with a cast for a broken right thumb.
"Tosh is a complete defensive player, he does everything," said defensive line coach Ken Delgado. "He provides us with leadership. He's been here for a while. Tosh is a link to the recent pass. His knowledge, leadership, hard work and effort will pay off this year."
During training camp in 2004, Lupoi was positioning himself as a starter at either of Cal's defensive end positions and was tabbed as second-team All-Pac-10 selection in Athlon Sports' 2004 preseason magazine. It was then that he suffered the foot injury that kept him sidelined for his senior season. Not only was he unable to play, but 2004 just happened to be one of the Bears' most successful seasons in school history.
"Sitting out last season was the most difficult thing I've gone through," said Lupoi, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA and has already earned his bachelor's degree in American studies and is pursuing his master's in education. "Not being able to play with my senior class, which was supposed to be the climax of my football career, was tough. It was something I've planned for my whole life. Having that ripped away was great adversity for me to deal with."
Even though he had the frustrating challenge of not playing last season, Lupoi is able to bring a unique perspective to the team as he studied the Cal play book during his off year and mastered the team's defensive scheme. The sixth-year senior also has the experience of playing for two different coaching staffs. Lupoi was recruited by former head coach Tom Holmoe, and has now been a member of all four of Jeff Tedford's Cal teams.
"Besides Coach Tedford being an awesome coach, he has really stressed unity," Lupoi said. "Before he got here we were much more separated. We worked hard and had good talent, but we were separated offensively and defensively. Tedford immediately brought us together and now we are fighting for one common goal."
In 2005, Lupoi looks to make up for lost time, as well helping keep the Bears' common goal.
"Every time I hit the practice field, I choose one or two different things to work on," Lupoi said. "I do my best to not get down when something is not working, and really try to point out my personal flaws and work on them on a daily basis. I also expect our team to improve everyday and eventually get to a performance level where we are competing at a national level, and for the Pac-10 championship."