Vandals' Iupati set to bulldoze opponents
The star offensive lineman squats 600 pounds and bench presses more than 400.
BY NICK JEZIERNY - firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2009 Idaho Statesman
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Hear Idaho football coach Robb Akey's press conference at the WAC football meetings
At 6-foot-6, 330 pounds, Idaho offensive guard Mike Iupati is an imposing figure and the kind of guy who doesn't say much.
So when Iupati does say something, people usually listen. Maybe that's why there are a bunch of WAC defensive linemen feeling a bit uneasy after hearing what he had to say at the WAC Football Meetings on Thursday in Salt Lake City.
"I am very comfortable," Iupati said. "I am in the best shape of my football career, and I'm not just comfortable, I'm confident. The training, what the coaches have taught me and the physical tools I have, I think I'm going to do a lot of damage this year."
Teammate Jonah Sataraka pities those who are going to be on the receiving end of Iupati's pancake blocks or get in his path on plays where he pulls and gets a full head of steam before contact.
"You have to bring your A-game or he'll embarrass you," said Sataraka, a junior nose guard. "He's a physical specimen and his strength is ridiculous."
In the weight room, Iupati squats 600 pounds, bench presses more than 400 and power cleans more than 300 pounds.
That size, strength and his footwork - Sataraka said he competes well in any running drills the team does - make him a candidate to play football professionally.
Vandal coach Robb Akey has been told that after last season, he received a second-round grade by NFL scouts despite missing four games and not being at full strength because of shoulder surgery he had in the spring of 2008.
"It's one of my goals but I'm the kind of person who take steps at a time," Iupati said. "I never say I'm going to NFL, and I never really talk about it. I'm just focusing on school and college football. When the season is over, I can talk about it."
Scouts have told him they like what he brings to the table but would like to see him do a better job of finishing his blocks, which is something he plans on doing this season.
That's bad news for those defenders.
"He's just a mammoth of a man," Hawaii center John Estes said. "He's just a brick wall. Our defensive guys know all about him."
There is a picture of Iupati in one of the team rooms in the Kibbie Dome that showcases what he can do. The picture is from Idaho's season-opening game at USC in 2007.
"He's got his right hand on one guy and he's pancaking another guy with his left hand," Sataraka said. "And that was against (U)SC."
Iupati smiled and chuckled when asked about the picture. That was the first game he started and he is eager for his senior season to begin.
"We're going to surprise a lot of people this season," Iupati said. "Winning big would bring joy to my heart."
He's definitely doing his part to help the Vandals try to record their first winning season since 1999. The senior has emerged as one of this year's team leaders.
"To be a leader, that means they are doing things right and communicating the message that you also want to communicate with your team," Akey said. "I don't care what coach it is - the players' voices is so much louder than ours that it isn't even funny. Everyone respects him. If Mike says it needs to be done that way, then it better be done that way. I think that helps a ton."
Iupati will never be a vocal leader and doesn't try. He describes his leadership style as "by example" and hopes teammates follow his lead.
"He doesn't say that much, but by his actions, he says a lot," Sataraka said. "His actions speak about 1,000 words. A lot of guys really respect them."
Nick Jezierny: 377-6420