CORAL GABLES, Fla. — First, the Mauigoa family prayed, as they do before any family meeting. Then they went around the table, one by one, mother and father, three older brothers and sister, and offered thoughts on where the youngest brother, Francis Mauigoa, should play college football.
“A family decision,” Francis called it, “because it affected everyone in the family.”
This was last December in Hawaii, where the family met the day before signing day. The parents, Fa’alialia and Telesia, planned to move from their native American Samoa to wherever Francis played. His brother, Francisco, a linebacker at Washington State, planned to transfer to the new school.
One by one, they talked to the coaches and programs, the cities and opportunities. Tennessee was mentioned. Southern Cal. Francis, a five-star recruit who goes by “CiCi,” could go to any school he wanted.
The family then went around the table a second time. Each person said where Francis should go to school.
“I went last,” Francis said.
“I’m here,” he said, looking around the Miami Hurricanes’ practice facility. “This is where I wanted to be.”
If you want to understand where Miami has come since last season — and, more importantly, where it hopes to go in the Mario Cristobal years — start with these brothers and their journey to Coral Gables. They tell a larger story.
Cici is the kind of offensive line recruit Miami hasn’t had since its national title heyday. Strength? At 18, he squatted 500 pounds, tops on the team, and the 6-foot-6, 341-pound right tackle has the, “greatest muscle density in Miami history,” Cristobal said. Speed? His 1.71-second split over 10 yards was faster than all but one of the 36 listed offensive linemen at this year’s NFL scouting combine.
Older brother Francisco, who goes by “Cisco,” started at Washington State last year as a sophomore and immediately upgrades Miami’s linebackers. His 60 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and interceptions are the kind of numbers this defense can use.
“When I went into the transfer portal, I knew this is where I wanted to go,” Francisco said. “My brother was highly recruited and I knew my family was moving to where my brother went. I was like, “I want to be with my family.’
So, there’s also the feel of a family business to the Mauigoa family’s move across the world to Coral Gables similar to another family with Samoan roots, the Tagovailoas, moving from their native Hawaii to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for now- Dolphins quarterback Tua’s college days.
The idea is to oversee the younger brother’s education to professional level.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” Francis said, “and I’m ready for it.”
If the potential is documented, there’s a humble hunger that comes from the brothers’ roots on the American Samoan fields. The equipment they played with told a story: Broken shoulder pads, old helmets. Francis once cut slippers to serve as knee and thigh pads.
“The equipment over there is illegal over here,” he said.
The oldest brother, Frank, now in the U.S. Army, was the first to play football as youth. That led the others into the game. The next oldest, Frederick, became a center for coach Mike Leach’s Washington State teams.
That charted the rout for Francis, who played his final high school years at the Aquinas School in San Bernardino, Calif., before joining Frederick at Washington State.
Francis (all the children have F-names) played his final two years at IMG Academy, where his rare talent became obvious to all. In some form, the youngest son carries the family banner as it moved around him.
“There’s pressure,” he said, “but I can handle it.”
Fa’alialia and Telesia Mauigoa live less than 10 minutes from the brothers’ dorm rooms. They meet regularly, most recently for church on Sunday. But it’s a transition for everyone.
The father, who goes by Lia, misses his regular golf outings with friends in Samoa. The mother, Sia, misses her work as an assistant high school principal. They all miss their Pacific island food in this opening stanza in South Florida.
Somewhere in all this change, the Mauigoas represent the change inside the Miami program this season. It’s not a finished product across the roster. But the potential is upgraded. The older brother, Francisco, helps a defense needing help. The younger brother, Francis, is the kind of star recruit Cristobal covets and now anchors the line.
They push each other, work out together, just as they always have. Francisco laughs how he hasn’t been able to teach his younger brother the details of one football technique: “Trash talking,” he says.
“I don’t trash talk,” Francis says. “I just play.”
The Maugioas have come halfway around the world just to play. All teams talk of being a family. But their family business with its humble roots and high potential can be a foundation for what this larger Hurricane family hopes to become.
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