Tevita Finau takes long road, with a stop for BBQ, on trip to Jets

Tevita Finau
Defensive tackle Tevita Finau had a sack in the preseason last year against the Giants, but didn’t play in the regular season.
Credit: Getty Images

If it weren’t for a stop for Hawaiian barbecue on the way to the airport, Jets defensive end Tevita Finau might not be in the NFL today.

Finau has lived a life of travel. Born in New Zealand, his father owned a construction company that bid on projects throughout the Pacific, and the family followed. After birth, he moved to Hawaii, Tonga, back to New Zealand and then finally settled again in Hawaii — all by 11 years old. Rugby was his first love and he didn’t play football until his final two years of high school.

And though he was all-state, he didn’t go off to play big-time college football.

“I stayed home and helped the family — money issues and such. I jumped into my dad’s construction company for about two years,” Finau said. “Then some friends that I played rugby with got together and decided they’d go back to school. I said I’d go along for the ride.”

All six players, including Finau, were promised scholarships by the coaching staff at Eastern Arizona College.

“We got there on campus, just off the plane and everything and an assistant coach came out and told us they ran out of scholarships,” Finau said. “We got there and they said they ran out.”

So they turned around and Finau assumed he’d go back to construction work.

With time before their flight back to Hawaii, the group stopped at restaurant for chicken katsu. While eating, they noticed a man staring at them.
“He asks us, ‘Do you all play football?’ We said we did but our school ran out of scholarships,” Finau said. “Straight away he said, ‘Would you want to check out my school? I just got hired as the linebackers coach there.’ He told us it wasn’t that far.”

By the end of the day all six had enrolled at Phoenix College where Finau went on to play two seasons.

“We were meant to go there,” Finau said of Phoenix, smiling and shaking his head. “Everytime I talk with my friends who were they, we talk about it, how crazy it was. But how I got to Utah is even crazier.”

He committed to West Virginia after his two years in Phoenix were up, but after a semester feeling homesick he decided to transfer to Utah, where a cousin played.

“The defensive coordinator called me and said that they could [count] all my classes [he’d already taken elsewhere],” Finau said. “So I took an overnight plane to get there and showed up the next day. And that’s how I got to Utah.”

He graduated with a 3.0 GPA and a degree in sociology. He even roomed with Jets 2014 seventh-round pick Trevor Reilly.

“When he came in, he couldn’t bench press 100 pounds,” Reilly said. “He couldn’t bench press 100 pounds, really. Not lying. The crazy thing is that he was there two years. He left benching 400 pounds.”

At his pro day in 2012, Finau had 26 reps at 225 pounds.

The long road to the NFL included stops with the Cowboys, Cardinals and Eagles before the Jets signed him to the practice squad late in the 2012 season.

“I’m so blessed, so blessed to be there,” Finau said. “I think it was the road I was meant to take.”

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD looking for man they say assaulted elderly…

      The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Hispanic male 20's wanted in connection with…

Local

Three arrested after allegedly assaulting off-duty officer in…

Three men were arrested early Saturday morning after allegedly assaulting an off-duty officer at a Bronx bodega, and the NYPD is asking for the public's…

Local

Healthcare union creates vibrant West Indian Day Parade…

Volunteers worked almost around the clock through the weekend, putting the flashy finishing touches on hundreds of costume pieces 1199SEIU members will wear while marching…

National

Top 10 most hipster college campuses

Hipsters are everywhere these days. You can't walk down the anywhere anymore without seeing a pair of skinny jeans on a handlebar mustachioed 20-something, a…

Arts

Theater: Discouraging 'Poor Behavior'

Theresa Rebeck's latest off-Broadway play, about two couples sparring on a weekend getaway, repeats a few mistakes of her past.

Gossip

Chef Todd English arrested for DWI in the…

Celebrity chef Todd English is facing DWI charges after a traffic stop on Sunday.

Movies

Box office: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is 2014's…

This weekend "The Guardians of the Galaxy" passed the fourth "Transformers" movie to become the highest grossing film of 2014.

Gossip

Spears back with controversial ex?

Is Briteny Spears back with Adnan Ghalib?

Sports

Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…

Sex

When it comes to dating, height matters

Does a man’s height really matter when it comes to dating? Unfortunately - according to a new study - the answer looks like it’s yes.…

Travel

10 free apps to make traveling easier

Finding the nearest bathroom, calculating currency exchanges and locating your departure gate must have been difficult for travelers of previous generations. But we wouldn't know,…

Travel

How to get a seat upgrade to business…

It used to be much easier to upgrade your coach seat to business or even first class, but rigid rules and tighter schedules have made…