Maiava juggles tackling quarterbacks and airport baggage

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Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics | The Daily Wildcat September 8, 2018. Junior defensive lineman Abraham Maiava (71) during the Wildcats 45-18 loss to the Houston Cougars. TDECU Stadium, Houston, TX.

Life as a college student-athlete is difficult enough as is. Between practices, games and a full schedule of classes, athletes have to balance their time wisely during their sport season. Arizona football redshirt junior Abraham Maiava does all of this, while also working a weekend job at Tucson International Airport. 

Maiava redshirted last season after tearing his ACL while at New Mexico Military Institute, where he played previously. 

“It’s in Roswell,” Maiava said. "The town is only really popular for the UFO stuff.” 

Out of football for a year, the 6-foot-2, 300 pounder came to Tucson where his family had come for his brother Lene, who was an offensive lineman at UA from 2011-2015. 

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In the year he was out of football, Maiava said he was trying to get his mind right and figure out what he wanted to do. He picked up a job at the local airport working on the ramps and handling baggage. While the schedule is flexible and allows him to work mostly closing shifts on weekends, his sister has also been a big help in his ability to be able to balance out work and school.

 “My sister got a job there too,” said Maiava. “She helps me out a lot by picking up shifts.”

Getting back into the game, Maiava was reached out to by Arizona defensive graduate assistant Davy Gnodle, who informed him of the walk-on tryouts before Maiava started school. Maiava came to the program as an offensive lineman like his brother, but made the switch to defensive line when head coach Kevin Sumlin brought on defensive line coach Iona Uiagalelei, who, like Maiava, is of Polynesian descent. 

“I just wanted to see if I could make a change,” said Maiava. “It all happened really quick, but thankfully I was able to adjust myself quickly.”

Maiava saw his first action against Houston, receiving 33 snaps and recording three tackles last Saturday. 

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“It was nerve-wracking to be honest,” Maiava said. “The guys kept saying after my first snap the nerves would go away. Our motto for that game was ‘do your job,’ so I just tried to do that.”

Now, balancing his time at the airport with a full college season, the walk-on is hopeful to not only earn a scholarship but also to be a role model for the walk-on community going forward. 

“I think it’s motivation for all the walk-ons, especially myself,” Maiava said. “I just thank God for the strength he’s giving me every single day to come to school and take advantage of the opportunity I have.”


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