Steven Fanua is not an average APU football player. A recent graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in American Studies, Fanua stands out.
“He’s a mild-mannered, quiet guy. He’s very attuned to what’s going on. He asks very inquisitive questions,” said Defensive Coordinator Brian Willmer. “He’s a lot of fun to be around. He’s very sharp, very smart and very personable with all the guys.”
He is the type of guy that head coach Victor Santa Cruz sees as being a leader of the future.
“He appreciates life. He’s honestly just a really good guy. He’s trying to find a way to help and contribute to society, and he’s humble as can be,” Santa Cruz said.
Fanua is currently a graduate student in APU’s Master of Arts in Management program. Fanua said he was initially attracted to APU because of the “God First” motto.
“Being a Christian and wanting to be around not only leaders that are Christian and can help me grow in my faith, but also peers and other young men of faith trying to do the same thing I am,” said Fanua.
As well as being an achieving student and a highly respected young man of God, he plays football the way coaches dream of, according to Santa Cruz and Willmer; “like his hair is on fire,” running from sideline to sideline, with a motor that never quits, going all out all the time.
“He has the quintessential linebacker mentality,” said Santa Cruz. “He’s going to hunt you down like you’re the last meal on earth.”
Wilmer shares in that sentiment, knowing Fanua will bring it every play.
“He plays exactly the way you should play defense. He just plays hard on every single play,” said Wilmer.
Fanua showed exactly what his coaches were talking about Oct. 26 in a critical game against Central Washington, with first place in the GNAC conference on the line. The 6-foot-1 junior middle linebacker recorded 15 tackles, one forced fumble and two pass breakups in the first game. He had a significant amount of playing time this season due to injuries to starting senior linebacker Sean Barber and replacement senior linebacker Marcus Mendillo. Fanua spent the previous seven games in a special teams/backup role — a role that he has embraced.
“My love for the game has grown more and more,” said Fanua. “Just the opportunity to be out there on the field has been awesome and amazing, and I’m grateful for it.”
Fanua stepped into a position in which he had little experience and his coaches said he handled it well.
“He kept learning and learning every week, and when his time came to shine, he gave us everything,” said Santa Cruz.
This was the first significant playing time Fanua had seen in two seasons after stepping away from the California Golden Bears at UC Berkeley after he was redshirted his sophomore year. Even though he came from a Division I program in Cal, Fanua still had a lot to learn and said he appreciates everything his teammates have done for him. He specifically pointed to Barber, senior linebacker Jake Henderson and senior linebacker Ethan Danielson as great examples of leaders.
“I have the utmost respect for all of them and I have learned a lot from them,” said Fanua.
Fanua started at middle linebacker once again for the Cougars in the latest home game against Western Oregon on Saturday, Nov. 2. He recorded eight tackles in the 38-28 win.