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January 4, 2006SAN ANTONIO, Texas - No player came into this year's U.S. Army All-American game as a bigger unknown than Kahuku (Hawaii) defensive tackle Joseph Faifili.
The 6-foot-2, 300 pound Faifili is the first ever Hawaiian player to play in the prestigious Army game and he's wasted no time making sure people get to know his personality both on and off the field.
On Monday, Faifili showed off his talents by playing the piano at the San Antonio Westin in front of several of his All-American teammates.
The following day, Faifili gave his West teammates a cultural lesson when he taught them a New Zealand tribal war dance called the "Tiki Tonu," which is also referred to as a "Haka".
Meanwhile, on the field Faifili arguably had the quickest feet and best technique of the West defensive and offensive linemen.
Faifili's impact was enough to catch five-star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy's attention on Tuesday.
"Faifili, to be honest I didn't know who he was," McCoy said. "But he's one of the most underrated players I've ever seen. He's should be rated just as high as any of these other guys because he's just that good.
"Now if he didn't do that where he's from, he's doing it here where it matters. He's holding his own and he's not even that big of a guy. He's short, with small feet, but he has the biggest calves I've ever seen."
The recent attention Faifili has gotten from his West teammates gives him a pretty good laugh.
"Hawaii guys are always overlooked," Faifili said. "And don't get me wrong, these guys here are awesome. But a lot of times being so far away from the states, there's phone calls to Hawaii, but rarely there's visits by coaches there.
"It's actually kind of cool because you have a low profile and then when you come, people underestimate you."
Aurora (Colo.) Regis Jesuit defensive lineman Butch Lewis was one of the players who may have underestimated Faifili when camp opened on Monday.
However, after two days of practice Lewis said Faifili has captured the respect of his teammates with his play on the field and personality off the field.
"We made fun of him at first because he has small feet and big calves," Lewis said. "But he may have the best feet on the team. He's definitely shocked a lot of us and opened up our eyes."
Faifiti will be one of several players to pull out a hat on Saturday, despite the fact he has yet to take any official visits.
One set back for Faifili is he will take his two-year Mormon Mission after his freshman season, so whoever signs him will only get his services for 2006 and he won't be back from his mission until the 2009 season.
"Utah, Arizona and BYU are my top three teams I'll be deciding between," Faifili said. "I used to live in Utah before I moved back to Hawaii, so I like both BYU and Utah a lot. Arizona was the first team to offer me a scholarship, so they're also really high on my list."
Faifili attended Granger high school in Utah and moved back to Hawaii for his senior season in 2005. He helped lead Kahuku to a state championship and a 13-1 record this season.
Faifiti is also a second cousin of Minnesota Viking and former Nebraska All-American offensive lineman Toniu Fonoti.
Click HERE to see Faifili perform his New Zealand tribal war dance. Note: Quicktime player required