NCF Nation: Andy Levitre

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Not to start a recruiting riot or anything, but Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea, whose combination of power and athleticism is going to earn him a job on Sundays in the not-too-distant future, says where he comes from he's just average.

Of course, Samoan and Tongan success in football is nothing new, though Paea's 50-50 blend -- Tongan mom, Samoan dad -- seems to have worked particularly well.

"I thought I was just an average Tongan guy," said the 6-1, 293-pound junior. "Then I came here, and I was pretty much stronger and bigger than the guys on the [high school] team. There are guys who are stronger than me down there."

When he came here -- as in Provo, Utah -- three years ago, he didn't speak any English and had never played a down of football before.

The transition was tough. No more ocean. No more year-round sunny, warm weather. Everything was unfamiliar. And the earnest student, who actually was ahead of many of his U.S. peers in subjects like math, struggled in class.

"It was hard to explain when I knew something," he said. "Sometimes I'd draw it instead of explaining it."

As you might imagine, football was the easy part.

"One of the coaches saw my size and said, 'Why don't you try out for the football team?'" Paea said.

Paea, then slightly over 300 pounds, didn't clarify whether the coach said that from his knees with a box of chocolates and bouquet of roses in hand.

He played only his senior season, but that was enough for him to become a prospect. After playing at Snow (Utah) Community College, he signed with Oregon State and was almost immediately penciled into the starting lineup last year.

He certainly passed the sight test. After only a handful of practices in full pads, he created a fairly substantial buzz.

"He didn't look like a JC guy coming in to play D-1 ball, he looked like an NFL guy coming back to play in college,'' former Oregon State defensive end Victor Butler told The Oregonian in the fall. "I told the coaches not only should this guy start, but put him on my side of the ball so he can draw some double-teams and free me up.''

Former Beavers guard Andy Levitre spent time during his interviews at the NFL combine telling scouts about Paea.

After recording five sacks and a 11 tackles for a loss in just his third season of football -- he also battled a sprained knee late in the season -- Paea might be the Pac-10's breakout defensive player next fall.

He's the Beavers strongest player -- and maybe one of the strongest in the nation -- with a bench press of over 500 pounds. He's also built like a linebacker, with no excess fat.

Dude is just one big muscle. And he can move.

Part of his athleticism comes from his first love: rugby. Paea was born in New Zealand and growing up dreamed of doing the Haka with the All-Blacks.

When asked now whether he'd like to play for the, say, San Diego Chargers or the All-Blacks, Paea chooses the NFL.

He seems as aware as anybody that his future in the sport looks bright.

"I was no body," he said. "Now I'm making a name for myself for me and my family. It would be a dream come true [to play in the NFL]. It would be perfect for my family because I come from a poor family."

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

We're throwing at the NFL combine.

  • Former Arizona receiver Mike Thomas continues to be short, but Money Mike also continues to do things that figure to make him a lot of coin when the NFL draft rolls around. Like run faster than Percy Harvin. (And note that former UA OT Eben Britton's 40 time probably won't hurt him either).
  • And... not to let that combine list linger or anything... but who would have thought that USC linebacker Kaluka Maiava would do just as many reps with 225 pounds -- 30 -- as Brian Cushing, and both would leave sure-fire top-10 LB pick Aaron Curry in their dust (25)?
  • Speaking of Cushing... he tries to respond to rumors of steroid use.
  • Speaking of draft prospects, whatever happened to Rudy Carpenter's? He needs to convince scouts that a big arm isn't the only thing that matters.
  • Andy Levitre, late of Oregon State, talks... you guessed it! -- NFL combine.
  • Lots of Pac-10 names -- Patrick Chung, Rulon Davis, Keenan Lewis -- in this combine story.
  • Tim Hundley will leave SMU to become UCLA's new secondary coach. Hundley was Rick Neuheisel's defensive coordinator at Colorado and Washington.
  • It looks like Washington will have an easier time funding new uniforms than funding a massive renovation of Husky Stadium.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

These links will grant you three wishes. If they like you.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

If you play these links backwards they reveal who will win the 2009 Pac-10 title.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

I really labored over some of these.

Offense

QB: Rudy Carpenter, Sr., Arizona State
RB: Jahvid Best, So., California
RB: Jeremiah Johnson, Sr., Oregon
TE: Rob Gronkowski, So., Arizona
OL: Alex Mack, Sr., California
OL: Jeff Byers, Sr., USC
OL: Juan Garcia, Sr., Washington
OL: Max Unger, Sr., Oregon
OL: Andy Levitre, Sr., Oregon State
WR: Mike Thomas, Sr., Arizona
WR: Brandon Gibson, Sr., Washington State
K: Thomas Weber, So., Arizona State

Defense

DE: Nick Reed, Sr., Oregon
DT: Fili Moala, Sr., USC
DT: Brian Price, So., UCLA
DE: Dexter Davis, Jr., Arizona State
LB: Rey Maualuga, Sr., USC
LB: Brian Cushing, Sr., USC
LB: Zach Follett, Sr., California
CB: Jairus Byrd, Jr., Oregon
CB: Alterraun Verner, Jr., UCLA
FS: Taylor Mays, Jr., USC
SS: Patrick Chung, Sr., Oregon
P: Keenyn Crier, So., Arizona

KR: Ronald Johnson, So., USC
PR: Sammie Stroughter, Sr., Oregon State

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Touching all the bases while optimism remains high.

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