Lefi Letuligasenoa’s family dropped him off at Cal Poly for freshman orientation in 2010, and that was the moment the Mustangs football program hooked the Elk Grove High product’s two younger brothers, too.
Three-and-a-half years later, Lefi has finished his career as a first-team all-Big Sky Conference guard with hopes of turning pro, middle brother Josh has developed into an emerging contributor on Cal Poly’s defensive line and youngest Noah is preparing to sign a National Letter of Intent with the Mustangs today.
The consensus seems to be that Noah might be the best of the bunch. And, though he was offered scholarships by Air Force and several other Big Sky schools, his heart belonged to Cal Poly from that first day he set foot on campus as a high school freshman all those years ago.
“Seeing all the older seniors in college playing football and seeing the college town and being around the whole college atmosphere, it was a whole lot to take in,” said Noah, who said he also chose Cal Poly over Sacramento State, North Dakota and South Dakota. “It was just a great experience and something I’ll always remember.
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“When Cal Poly gave me the offer, I kind of knew in my heart that’s where I would be.”
The Mustangs will have a class of 21 seniors to replace when the signing period begins today at 7 a.m. The program will have a ceremony to announce its 2014 recruiting haul today at 4 p.m. at Charlie’s Place.
Cal Poly coaches are prohibited from commenting publicly about recruits before they sign letters of intent, but the Mustangs are looking for immediate help at defensive tackle, kicker, defensive back and possibly slotback or wide receiver.
Noah Letuligasenoa could be a linebacker of the future in the mold of returning senior Cameron Ontko, a former Wisconsin transfer who was second on the Mustangs with 108 tackles, seven tackles for loss, a sack and an interception in 2013.
Both are listed at 5-11, and though Ontko, at 220 pounds, has about 10 pounds on the incoming recruit, they were smartly paired up during Letuligasenoa’s official visit to campus the weekend before last.
Speed is a large part of each player’s success.
“Noah’s got a great motor,” Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon said. “He’s a guy that just goes nonstop. … We had him playing our outside linebacker position, and we expect that guy to be one of, if not the, fastest guys on the team. He’s got to do it all.”
Letuligasenoa racked up 88 tackles, including team highs with 32.5 for loss and 18.5 sacks, en route to becoming the Sacramento Bee Division II Defensive Player of the Year and helping lead the Thundering Herd to the CIF-Sac-Joaquin Section divisional title game.
Letuligasenoa was also a sprinter on the Elk Grove track and field team the past two seasons, running a personal best 12.14 seconds in the 100-meter dash. He’s looking forward to being mentored by Ontko.
Still, Letuligasenoa looks up to no one like he does his two older brothers. That’s why it’s hard for him to accept that he might be the best yet.
Lefi is the only one to earn Elk Grove’s Male Athlete of the Year plaque, but when it comes down to it, even he had to concede somewhat.
“I got Male Athlete of the year, but I always know Josh is way more athletic than I wish I can be,” Lefi said, “but it comes down to Noah’s got that speed. He was surpassing the track stars when he was weighing 205 pounds, and they were probably 150. He’s probably got the most natural talent. I’ll give him that one.”
It makes sense. Noah was able to start football at a younger age because the older brothers were above the weight limitations for youth football levels.
Lefi began playing organized football in high school. Josh started in eighth grade. Noah has been playing since age 9.
Lefi got a glimpse of Noah at his best when he was able to follow Elk Grove’s run to the title game in person after Cal Poly’s season ended in November.
Lefi was present when Noah picked up a fumble and ran it 67 yards for a touchdown in a 22-14 semifinal victory over Rio Linda on Nov. 29.
It was his second touchdown return of the season — the seventh score overall for the two-way linebacker/tight end — and the play also earned a national play of the week honor.
“I was amazed he was able to do that,” Lefi said. “For me to be able to see just a glimpse of it was special.”
The Letuligasenoa lineage at Cal Poly is becoming special as well, and the Mustangs have had several brother trios in recent years. The Shotwells, Johnstons and Mohameds have each produced a trio of Cal Poly football players since the mid-2000s.
Sacramento natives with roots in American Samoa, the Letuligasenoas are as tight knit as any other. Lefi had the largest group at senior day festivities this past season, and Noah said family members regularly filled two sections of stands at Elk Grove home games.
It makes sense they honored each other by selecting the same school.
“Family is everything,” Noah said. “I’ve always been taught since I was young that without family, there isn’t anything. I would do everything for my brothers. They’ve always taught us God first, family second.”