Seldom does a man with the size and demeanor of Christian Tupou go unnoticed. He weighs in at 6-foot-2, 300 pounds and is a mountain of a man with a bit of a mean streak. However, a blown ACL piled on top of ridiculously overdone NCAA sanctions can make any player disappear into the abyss of people's afterthoughts, even at USC.
Senior defensive tackle Christian Tupou hasn't been able to put on the pads for a Trojan game day, in over a year. This is the reason why many people have put Tupou in the back of their minds, in 2010. Doing so in 2011 would be a major mistake.
In talking to Tupou, one get's the feeling that, in a world without football, he might have been a soldier in a former life. He certainly lives by their values.
1. Loyalty - Bear true faith and allegiance. When asked about the USC fans, Tupou states simply, "This program has always been about finishing strong, no matter what. We needed to finish this season off strong and give the Trojan family something to look forward to, in 2011. And that's what we did against UCLA."
2. Duty - Fulfill your obligations. USC is currently buried under NCAA sanctions. When Tupou blew out his knee, it would've been easy to transfer to a powerhouse that has a shot at a national title in 2011. He could've sat out via redshirt in 2010 and had the bright lights of the BCS championship shine on him in 2011. The man says he'll be a Trojan in 2011.
3. Respect - Treat others as they should be treated. When asked about defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, and whether he is capable at his age of connecting with the modern college player, Tupou is quick to defend him and is effusive in his praise. "He's obviously the greatest," Tupou says. "But, when you really get to know him as a man and as a person, you have so much respect for him. He can identify with any player. He's just like Coach Carroll. He can talk to you one-on-one and it will be just like talking to one of the boys. There's a lot he can teach us."
4. Selfless service - Put the welfare of others before your own. When asked about mega stud in-training, freshman defensive lineman Kevin Greene, Tupou says without hesitation, "He's a gifted person. He has all the tools in the world. As a senior, I'm really going to get on him and just force him to get better, and this guy will be a beast in the coming years."
5. Honor - Live the values. When asked about the high school football scene in Sacramento and what it means to him, Tupou states, "What your high school does, your neighborhood carries that with them and prides themselves off of that. Grant High School is my high school. Even though my team lost (in 2010), we're proud of what our kids have done," he says. "A lot of our kids have gone on to college and have made our community proud. (We) Go to college, pursue an education and come back and instill wisdom in the younger guys, so they can keep up the tradition."
6. Integrity - Do what's right. See numbers one, two, three, four and five, above.
7. Personal Courage - Face fear, danger, or adversity, both physical and moral. Regarding his injury and his lost 2010 season, Tupou hides nothing. "My heart is feeling 100%", he says. "My leg is going to take patience. I'm not going to lie, ACL surgery is a big setback. But, I will promise the Trojan family this: I'm going to give it my all. I'm not going to promise a national championship, but I will promise a national championship effort. That's all I can give you guys."