By: Jorge Campos
Even at 6-foot 3-inches and 265 pounds, it’d be hard to guess that Billy Tanuvasa was a sophomore defensive end for the Dons.
His laid back personality, tempered competitiveness and the way he says “dude” in every sentence makes him look like a Southern California surfer. But come game time Tanuvasa is ferocious, combining brute force and speed, which has helped him lead the conference in tackles for loss.
Tanuvasa’s 9.5 tackles for loss is tops in the Southern Conference, and two full tackles ahead of the next player. He is also in a three-way tie at 21st overall for tackles per game, averaging six. Tanuvasa’s best performance through five games this season came against Moorpark Community College Sept. 21, where he racked up 13 total tackles, accounting for 4.5 of the teams 15 tackles for loss.
“You can have a lot of guys with talent, but if they don’t work hard they won’t develop that talent,” defensive coordinator Derrick Watkins said.
Watkins is Tanuvasa’s biggest influence, helping him develop as a player and as a person on and off the field. Long after Tanuvasa’s playing days are over at Santa Ana College he will continue to hear Watkins’ voice, he said.
“People have knowledge, but they don’t have wisdom. They don’t know how to apply what they’ve learned,” Watkins said about Tanuvasa’s ability to get in the backfield at will.
Starting his career at 14, while attending Corona High School Tanuvasa’s talent has always been evident, even though football wasn’t his first sport.
“I started playing to get ready for baseball season, and I found out I wasn’t bad at it,” Tanuvasa said.
The Dons’ top defensive end made the right call, quitting baseball altogether to devote all his time to football.
While physical presence is prized in football, the game’s cerebral nature calls for intelligence. Tanuvasa has learned to handle the delicate balance between grades and the field, earning a 3.06 G.P.A in the spring 2013 semester.
“Coming here has really taught me I can’t have things handed to me, I’ve got to bust my tail to get what I want,” Tanuvasa said.
Football is a team sport and being a good teammate is synonymous with racking up tackles, as one can only get so far alone.
“Billy is a good guy, off the field. A good friend, better teammate but a really good guy,” nose tackle Jeff Worthy said.
Worthy and Tanuvasa play off each other’s intensity, anchoring the Dons defensive line. When Worthy missed two games due to injury Tanuvasa covered for him, stepping up his game to become one of the top defensive linemen in the conference.
“I want to set an example to be a good guy, not just having athletic ability, not just having intellectual ability but both,” Tanuvasa said.