With a roster completed by more than 100 student-athletes, a leader is expected to step up. With just 11 of those athletes on the field at one time, that leadership needs to be divided among positions and classes.
Luckily for the Utah State football program, there is senior linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu.
“I have to be a leader. I have to be that guy and fill the spot,” Filimoeatu said. “As linebackers, we have to make sure everything is right.”
In his time as an Aggie, Filimoeatu has always been seen as a leader, but he sees his senior season as his opportunity to really step it up both on and off the field.
“I have to be a vocal leader and be even better than last year. We want to have a better season than in the past,” Filimoeatu said. “As a team, we need leadership. I can fill that role, while being a great linebacker and fulfilling my assignment.”
Part of that leadership role lies in rallying the younger players on the team and keeping them motivated.
“That’s his role this year, and he does a good job with that,” defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. “He’s very aware when we need to pick it up. He keeps the kids going, and he’s definitely the guy I look to for that.”
Filimoeatu started his football career at Granger High School in West Valley City, Utah, where he played with Aggie teammate Al Lapuaho. After high school, Filimoeatu headed to Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., where he helped the team to its second consecutive national community college championship.
After his sophomore season, Filimoeatu was named the All-America Community College Football Team Defensive Player of the Year, as well as a first-team All-American. With that, he was ranked as the 36th overall junior college prospect in the country.
Filimoeatu came to Utah State for the 2011 season and immediately joined the ranks of the starting defensive lineup. He started each game, seeing action at both defensive end and linebacker. He recorded 41 tackles last season, ranking ninth on the team. At the same time, Filimoeatu ended the year second on the team with 11 tackles for loss (0.85 per game). That statistic put him tied for 10th in the Western Athletic Conference.
Filimoeatu is quick to credit his constant drive and motivation to his parents, Sione and Liliena Filimoeatu, and the way they raised him.
“Growing up, your dad teaches you a lot of aspects of life. He teaches you heart; he teaches you how to work,” Filimoeatu said.
By the time he was seven years old, Filimoeatu was working construction alongside his dad. At that young age, he was learning to balance his life, while working and going to school.
“It taught me how to be disciplined and how to be humble,” Filimoeatu said. “I thank my parents for that.”
Hard work, humility and respect for everyone are just a few of the lifelong lessons Filimoeatu learned from his family and his Polynesian background.
“I give everything to my mom and dad,” Filimoeatu said. “Without them, I would be nothing.”
Being a native of the Salt Lake valley, the University of Utah is Filimoeatu’s hometown school. Rather than having strong love and dedication for the school and its football program, it has spurred strong rivalry feelings toward the program, before he was even at Utah State.
For that reason, this weekend’s game is the one Filimoeatu is looking the most forward to this season.
“Utah is my rivalry. Growing up, I never liked Utah or BYU. I just hated them; I don’t even know why,” Filimoeatu said.
One of the draws of this matchup for Filimoeatu is going up against a lot of family and friends who will be playing on the Utes’ side of the line.
“Looking at Utah, I have a lot of friends who play there, most of my cousins and a lot of guys from my junior college days are there,” Filimoeatu said. “It’s going to be one of the great rivalry games I’ve played.”
Filimoeatu said one of the benefits to this game being played at Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium is the local student and fan support.
“Our student section compared to theirs? There isn’t one,” Filimoeatu said. “Our student section is one of the best in the nation in my opinion.”
The Utah game is one of three this season that Filimoeatu sees as being a huge step in the preparation for the conference season, and with that, an advantage to getting closer to the team goal of winning the Western Athletic Conference title.
“We have three big games, but we look at it as an advantage to help us prepare for the conference season,” Filimoeatu said. “When we take on Utah, Wisconsin and BYU, we’ll be prepared. We’re pumped up for those games.”
As he heads into his final year at Utah State, Filimoeatu is grateful for the opportunity he has had to work with the players and coaching staff.
“I haven’t been coached at linebacker really well until now with coach (Spencer) Toone teaching me a lot of things,” Filimoeatu said. “I’ve already picked up more than last year. I know how to cover more and put more on the run.”
Following the completion of his interdisciplinary studies degree, Filimoeatu wants to have a career as a parole officer. However, like so many other players, he would love to be able to take his career a step further.
“Everybody’s dream is to make it to the big leagues,” Filimoeatu said. “Hopefully that works out for me, and it’s in God’s hands now.”
Regardless of what happens, Filimoeatu is looking ahead to a strong future. A lot of who he is today, he says he owes to his experience at Utah State.
“This right here, this University taught me how to be a man,” Filimoeatu said. “I give a lot of thanks to this University and coach (Gary) Andersen.”
Megan Allen works for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company