Tri-City HeraldOctober 16, 2014
Nobody was sure what to expect from Tomui Faamausili when he first began working with the Kamiakin High School football team over the summer.
The senior transfer known to his teammates as “T.J.” had played three full seasons with Pasco, which won just one varsity game during that stretch.
Braves coach Scott Biglin saw that he was fast and durable, and he had shown plenty of promise on Mid-Columbia Conference game films. Still, something was missing.
“He was running a little timid,” Biglin said. “We already had two good running backs. We didn’t know where he would fit in.”
Plus, learning a new system and being surrounded by brand new teammates — and leaving his old ones behind — had cut into Faamausili’s confidence.
“It took a little while getting used to plays. Pasco ran the same type of run plays — zone, counter and trap — but there were little quirks,” the 5-foot-9, 185 pound Samoan said. “I’ve always tried to work hard, and what happens happens.”
What finally set him apart was his ability to push through and persevere, something he credited Pasco head coach Dustin Lamb and running backs coaches Keithon Flemming and Leon Jackson with helping him develop since his freshman year.
“He wasn’t as noticeable at first. You never thought he’d become a breakout star,” said Kamiakin senior offensive lineman Christian Carman, who also noted Faamausili’s example in the weight room. “He’s got a work ethic like no other.”
Faamausili shared touches with fellow Braves running backs Mikey Jones and Justin Larsen in the first two games, totaling just under 100 yards on 34 carries and two touchdowns. It wasn’t until Week 3 that Faamausili finally exploded with 139 yards and three touchdowns in a 47-3 win over Southridge. In Week 4, he added 178 yards and three more touchdowns in a 29-8 win over Kennewick.
Through six weeks, he is second in the MCC in rushing with 607 yards on 78 carries — a 7.8 yard average — and is second in scoring with 12 touchdowns.
Biglin, who entered the season with a running-back-by-committee approach, has found his No. 1 running back.
“The more and more he got relaxed in the system, the more he started to flourish,” Biglin said. “He’s faster than I thought, and I like how patient he is.”
Jones and Larsen still get touches, averaging over 6 yards a carry between them with five touchdowns combined, and they have come to appreciate the example Faamausili has set.
“He’s made everybody in the running back corps better,” Jones said. “Coming in, he was kind of shy, but he’s shown leadership since them. And he’s still showing it.”
His offensive linemen like the way he runs, too.
“He hides our mistakes,” Carman said. “If we’re not doing something, he’ll make a play out of nothing.”
But Faamausili is quick to credit his teammates for supporting him, which has made for a smooth transition on the field.
“My teammates are my brothers. I know they have my back,” Faamausili said. “Jace (Navejas, a senior wide receiver) made a downfield block against Kennewick (to spring me) for a long touchdown run.”
Last Thursday, Faamausili ran wild on his former teammates, rushing for 161 yards and four touchdowns in the Braves’ 56-21 home win over Pasco, though he took no pleasure in his personal success.
“I wasn’t doing a lot of celebrating. I tried to be as respectful as I could. I have a lot of respect for them,” Faamausili said.
It’s clear Lamb has a healthy respect for his former starting running back. Perhaps that’s what made it difficult when he left the program.
“Any time you lose a good player it’s definitely tough. We were three years into him,” Lamb said. “He’s a real nice kid, and I always hope for kids to do well.
“We’ve just lost so many.”
Faamausili, who admits an affinity for playing the ukelele, does plan on playing football in college but hasn’t settled on one yet. But his first priority is serving a mission for the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints.
“If you put God first, He’ll figure out the rest,” he said.
Jack Millikin: 509-582-1406; ; Twitter: @jackbull61