A quiet offensive lineman who goes by the name Ngalu is getting ready to start in the biggest game of his career Saturday.
The undefeated City College of San Francisco football team is gearing up to play defending state champion Mount San Antonio College, a rematch from last season’s title game.
Just three years ago, Ahongalu Fusimalohi was living in a totally different atmosphere on the Tongan Islands, never once playing a down of football.
He decided he wanted to live in America with his father and wanted to start playing football.
Three years later, he’s a starting left guard on one of the most successful junior college programs in the nation.
It’s been a lot of work here," Fusimalohi said. "In high school, I didn’t know all the steps that [came with being a lineman], but here, everything is technique. It’s been fun."
Three years ago, Jefferson High School head coach Ako Poti met Fusimalohi, who had never played a down of football in his life and had just come to America fresh from the Tongan Islands.
"When I first saw Ngalu, I thought he was one of the kids’ uncles," Poti said. "He walked in and told me he just came in from the Islands and all he did was play rugby. We were literally halfway through the season and it was a matter of teaching him the game of football."
Even though Fusimalohi only played half the season, he still made the All-Peninsula Athletic League first team and All-County team.
Fusimalohi went to an English school back in Tonga, but while he was still making the adjustment to America, he wasn’t able to fully grasp the offensive playbook. That changed the summer going into his senior year of high school.
"My coach started training me with the offensive line the whole offseason," Fusimalohi said. "I started learning the plays and once the season started, it all clicked. [Guard] was the position for me."
Playing at CCSF and having to make an adjustment to the spread offense, Fusimalohi has grasped the Rams’ high-powered attack that has averaged more than 43 points a game.
"He’s been very persistent, and the one thing that impressed me and his high school coaches was his work ethic," CCSF offensive line coach Eduardo Nuno said. "He’s come on very well for us the last couple of games and has dominated. We expect great things from him next season."
Nuno would love for Fusimalohi to continue his strong play against the Mounties on Saturday. Fusimalohi said he is just thankful for his opportunity to play at CCSF.
"It’s been a great run for me and I never knew I’d [be] playing on a team like this," Fusimalohi said. "It’s been fun and I’m learning everything."
CCSF vs. Mt. San Antonio
WHEN: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: City College of San Francisco
NOTES: CCSF enters with a perfect 12-0 record, while Mt. San Antonio is 11-1. ... Mt. San Antonio has won the past two state championships, defeating CCSF 34-7 in 2010. ... CCSF enters the game as the No. 1-ranked team in the country according to JCfootball.com.