Overcoming injury, picking his moment

Senior linebacker Lincoln Faletoi’s interception secured SCIAC title

Lincoln Faletoi. Photo by Catie Kovelman

With 20 seconds to go in Chapman’s Oct. 28 football game against California Lutheran University, senior linebacker Lincoln Faletoi made an interception that helped give Chapman a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) championship.

Although the interception happened in the span of a few moments, it was a long time coming for Faletoi. Until the Cal Lutheran game, Faletoi, 23, had been sidelined with a herniated disk. Making the interception during his first game of the season – after almost a year of recovery – was unexpected, he said.

“It was surreal, really,” Faletoi said. “I still watch the tape every once in a while and I can’t believe it happened. I’d been out for so long, being the team’s biggest cheerleader, then I get the opportunity to make the play, and now the team is my biggest cheerleader.”

The night of the game, Faletoi didn’t even think he would be on the field.

“I told my family to stay home,” Faletoi said. “I said to them, ‘You know, I can play, but I probably won’t. I don’t want the kids staying out late.’”

Despite not attending the game, Faletoi said his wife, Ana, 21, was watching the game from home with their two children, Kennedy, 2, and Reagan, 1. Faletoi said that besides his teammates, his family members are his biggest fans.

After being at school for about 13 hours between classes and football practice on any given day, Faletoi is greeted with cries of “Dad’s home!” at the end of the day.

“It’s hectic, but it’s really rewarding at the same time,” Faletoi said. “When I’m here, I’m a student and an athlete, and everyone treats me like that, but when I go home, I’m dad.”

Being a full-time student-athlete, husband and a parent of two young children is not a typical undertaking for an undergraduate.

“He’s been able to give the guys on the team a different perspective. He’s doing everything they’re doing, plus taking care of two kids,” said offensive coordinator Casey Shine. “I just know he’s not sleeping, but he does a great job of doing everything. Whenever the guys say they’re having a rough day, I always tell them to look at Lincoln’s perspective.”

Although Faletoi may have more responsibilities than the average student, his family is always close by to support him, he said. The family is large and close-knit, like all Samoan families, Ava Faletoi, Lincoln’s mother said. She credited Lincoln Faletoi’s wife, Ana, for supporting him.

“(Lincoln) has made a lot of compromises along these (last) two years,” said Ava Faletoi, who works for Chapman’s Office of Admissions. “But the real hero in all this is his wife, Ana. She is the one who supported and pushed Lincoln to play the sport he loves while juggling everything.”

Even when he was recovering from his injury, Faletoi’s teammates said he did everything he could to stay involved with the team.

“He was still around the locker room and out on the field, and he even switched back to quarterback so he could still help out the team,” said senior defensive end Derek Hart.

Faletoi, an integrated educational studies major, was originally a quarterback at Santa Ana College. He had his sights set on joining the military, but the birth of his first child convinced him to stay local. For a while, he thought about going straight into the job force, but he said his mom and Shine encouraged him to apply to Chapman instead.

“Teachers and coaches are the only reason why I decided to go to college,” Faletoi said. “I never thought of myself as a schoolboy. Now, I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be, and I’m still playing football. It’s made me who I am.”

Faletoi said that he hopes to become a high school math teacher and football coach, so he can inspire others like him, he said.

“I want to be a math teacher because I know a lot of student athletes struggle with it,” Faletoi said. “I always found math fun, and always loved geometry even though all my teammates hated it. They would always ask me for help with homework.”

Faletoi’s coaches believe his passion for helping others will help him succeed in his teaching career.

“Whatever he does, he’s going to do it with fire, he’s going to do it with emotion, and I know he’s going to have a good impact on the life of young kids,” said head coach Bob Owens.

Chapman will travel to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor for the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship at 10 a.m. PST Nov. 18.

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