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Posted 27 Aug 2001   For week ended August 24, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 24Aug01

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


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