Idaho star guard Iupati is no couch potato
In the past, the Idaho Vandals were an afterthought for NFL scouts visiting the Potato State, where Boise was the place to be.
Mike Iupati changed that. The Idaho guard, who visited the Steelers earlier this month and figures to be a first-round pick in Thursday's NFL Draft, was the No. 1 target of scouts ahead of the Boise State Broncos players who compete on the blue field.
The 6-foot-5, 331-pound Iupati (pronounced ee-YOU-PAH-tee) was a consensus All-American who did not allow a sack in 2009 while grading out 90 percent or better in all 13 games, including Idaho's 43-42 win over Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl.
His talents are so plentiful that while he's played guard his entire career, some NFL clubs vision him eventually as a tackle, maybe even on the left side.
Why then did this powerhouse from Anaheim, Calif., elude the big West Coast powers and wind up in Moscow, the one in Idaho?
"My high school mainly focused on students graduating from high school, so I didn't get very much help from my counselors," explained Iupati, whose family moved to California from Samoa when he was 14. "I was a non-qualifier from high school because I took the wrong classes, so I decided to go to a junior college."
But while he was attending a barbecue function at his intended, Cerritos Junior College, Idaho coaches offered him an opportunity to walk-on if his parents paid for his first year.
"I refused it, but my parents took out a loan and paid for my first year," said Iupati, who spent that first year focusing on speaking English, which was not his native tongue.
He became a starter as a redshirt sophomore in 2007 and missed some time after undergoing shoulder surgery in 2008 before blossoming in 2009.
Soon, he will be in position to pay off that loan with plenty of interest.
"My family decided they wanted us to have a good education," he said of the move from Samoa. "They sacrificed a lot of stuff because we were very well off. But coming to the U.S. it was very difficult financially."
The family with three kids moved into his aunt's garage in Anaheim for one year.
"Then my parents both had jobs and were able to support us financially so we moved to a small apartment in Anaheim and lived there paycheck to paycheck," he said. "It's been hard. That's why I always take advantage of every little opportunity I get, just try to seize the moment so I can have a better future for myself and my family."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers not limiting themselves in free agency
- Big names become available this week via free agency; will Steelers be tempted?
- Steelers restructure Gilbert, Mitchell contracts; Pouncey close
- Steelers’ decision for NFL Draft: Pass rusher or cornerback?
- Steelers’ Harrison announces desire to play one more year
- Steelers GM Colbert prepared to look at all options before draft
- Depth a concern for Steelers’ Colbert
- Time running out for Steelers’ third-string quarterback Jones?
- Steelers GM Colbert looks at NFL Combine as important piece of puzzle