By Mark Wright
LDS Footballer Playing Through Family Pain
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- Football players are used to playing in
pain. Banged up shins, broken legs, cracked ribs - all just part of
the territory. Unfortunately for USC offensive lineman Faaesea Mailo,
his pain isn't the physical kind associated with damaged bones or
torn cartilage. Instead, Mailo's heart is hurting for his brother.
Last May, Mailo's 19-year-old brother, Tusi moved to Southern
California to play linebacker for Los Angeles Harbor College and met
with an unfortunate accident while swimming at the beach.
Unfamiliar with the sometimes hidden sandbars generated by changing
weather conditions and on-going construction, Tusi ran into the murky
water at the beach and dove in, head first. Tragically, Tusi plunged
directly into a sandbar. Tusi never saw it coming and the impact with
the sandbar broke his neck. Tusi was pulled from the water and taken
to the hospital where he underwent six hours of surgery. Now in
physical therapy, Tusi is paralyzed from the chest down.
When he first heard about his brother's accident, Mailo just couldn't
believe it was true. "My body just went cold. I was just in shock the
whole time," he said. "I couldn't control myself. It hurt to see my
brother like that. He was strapped down." After coming to grips with
the tragedy, Mailo had to make the most difficult phone call of his
young life. He had to call Hawaii and break the news to his parents.
Mailo was so distraught that when he called his parents in Hawaii, he
had difficulty speaking. "Faaesea was stumbling," his mother said. "I
asked him, 'Are you trying to tell me that Tusi was hurt?' He
couldn't tell me. My husband and I were worried. We thought Faaesea
was going to bang his head on a brick wall. "When he finally did tell
me what happened, there was an instant numbness."
At one point, the pain got so bad that Mailo almost gave up football.
"I was really thinking I can't handle it right now," Mailo said.
"It's going to be a tough transition for my family. I'm close with my
brother. I wanted to be with him. I was really heartbroken." When
Mailo met with USC coach Pete Carroll to discuss Tusi's injury, he
broke down in tears. "He was very emotional. It was an
extraordinarily difficult time for him and his family," Carroll said.
"He didn't know what to do. He was totally destroyed."
However, when Tusi learned of Mailo's plan to quit football so that
he could spend time helping Tusi and his family through the crisis,
Tusi would have none of it and counseled his brother to return to USC
and play football. "Tusi said, 'Go back for yourself and do it for
me.' "I started crying," Mailo said. Now, given the inspiration and
strength that comes only through adversity, Mailo is determined to
make this season count. "I re-committed myself to this season," Mailo
said. "This season means a whole lot more than before. It's going to
be for my brother." Although Mailo thinks about his brother every
day, maybe, just maybe, a successful football season will help to
ease the pain in Mailo's heart.
Playing through the pain
San Gabriel Valley CA Tribune 19Aug01 S2
By Scott Wolf Staff Writer
Tragedy stuns USC family