Oct. 23, 2006
By Kimberley Hoidal, California Media Relations
[This story originally appeared in the October21 issue of "Kickoff," the official California game day program]
Senior defensive end Abu Ma'afala has been a key player for the California football team this fall, helping the Golden Bears to the No. 11 ranking in the nation. A transfer from the University of Hawai'i in his second year with the Bears, Ma'afala is not just a key player on the field, he is an inspirational person off the field.
You will be ending your career here at Cal following the conclusion of the season, what will you leave with?
A good education first of all. Also how to self motivate and push myself even when I don't feel like it. I developed a work-ethic here at Cal.
What is your fondest memory on the field at Cal?
Playing against my best friend at Oregon (Enoka Lucas). Just because we were best friends all through high school and we wanted to stick together through college, but we didn't. With me initially going to Hawai'i out of high school I thought I would never get to play against any him. To actually play against him, felt like I was in high school all over again, just having fun.
What is your major at Cal? And what do you intend to do with it?
I am majoring in American studies with an emphasis on minorities in education in the United States. I still want to pursue a career in dentistry, but I am not sure if that will happen because of my family situation. If I don't become a dentist, I think I would want to become a social worker to be able to go back to Hawai'i and help those in dire need. I came from that kind of situation and I want to try to help them make it out of it.
Who has influenced you the most in your life and why?
I would have to say my step dad. He is just a great example of unconditional love. I wasn't his own son, but he cared for me, just as he cared for his own kids. He sacrificed a lot. He and my mom took care of my son, when I was here at Cal for the first two years. He loves my son, just as much as he loves me. I am not even his blood, but that shows how much he was there for me when other people weren't. He's really shown me how it is to be a father figure.
What is your favorite thing to do with your son, Levi?
Now that I am here at Cal I just think it is seeing him. But one of my most favorite things is when I get home at night and he looks at me and says, `Daddy,' and then runs to me to hug me; and probably sleeping with him. He does so many things unconsciously that it makes me feel good. He will grab my hand and put it around him right before he is about to fall asleep. In order to fall asleep he has to be touching some part of my body. It just makes me feel so good.
What has been your favorite class at Cal? Why?
Education 140, because I had an opportunity to tutor at Cole Middle School in west Oakland. It was pretty much a mirror image of what it is in Hawai'i, but it is a different demographic. I got to give back, that is my biggest thing I want to do in my life, is somehow help others. So being able to tutor and just talk to the kids. I used to bring them food if they did their homework. Letting them see they could make it too was cool.
If you could go against one player - who would it be and why?
Probably would have to be my uncle Chris (Fuamatu-Ma'afala). I was hoping if I got a shot at the NFL, he would still be in the league. I grew up watching him and I wanted to be just like him growing up. I was his biggest fan. I just wanted to see if all the stories were true. You hear people talk about him `he's this, he's that' and he was all-everything at Utah and he did well in the NFL. I wanted to see for myself if he was legit.
Where did you get your nickname Abu?
My sister. When we were babies she couldn't say Albert, so she kept saying `Abu'.
Who has helped you the most since arriving in Berkeley?
My mom. Like I said my step dad and her took care of my son while I was gone; my mom did everything in her power to make this experience as easy as possible. There were things in my personal life that were going on that if I would have had to do it alone, I don't think I would have made it and finished here at Cal. My mom just did everything she could possibly do and more, to make sure all I had to do was go to school and play football.
What do you miss about being away from Hawai'i?
Initially it was my son for the first two years, because I didn't have him here and it was rough being away from him. Now I think it is the people, the feeling is different. Everyone calls it the "Aloha spirit." It is just different when you walk around Hawaii and you walk around here.
As a transfer from Hawai'i how was the adjustment from one program to another? And what was the biggest difference?
I guess it would be the demands the football program has on you as a player. It is a lot more demanding pretty much. You have to put in a lot more effort and manage your time a lot better in order to stay on top of things and be successful.
If you could do anything on the football field what would it be?
I would be a kicker and a punter because I wouldn't have to practice [said with a laugh].