Kafo­valu tak­ing ad­van­tage of 2nd-chance op­por­tu­nity

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Brian How­ell

boul­der» Sweat dripped off the fore­head of Sam­son Kafo­valu as he took a swig of Ga­torade fol­low­ing a re­cent prac­tice.

He then be­gan to talk about how for­tu­nate he was to be stand­ing there, in uni­form, help­ing the Colorado Buf­faloes pre­pare for their first bowl game ap­pear­ance in nine years.

“Over­all, I’m just blessed to be able to be play­ing still col­le­giately,” said Kafo­valu, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound se­nior de­fen­sive line­man.

“It’s a phe­nom­e­nal time for me.”

This is a phe­nom­e­nal time for all of the Buffs (10-3), who are en­joy­ing a resur­gent sea­son af­ter 10 con­sec­u­tive los­ing cam­paigns. Ranked No. 11 by the As­so­ci­ated Press and No. 10 in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off rank­ings, the Buffs will take on Ok­la­homa State (9-3, No. 12 CFP, No. 13 AP) on Dec. 29 in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

For Kafo­valu, this sea­son has been a chance to re­write his fi­nal chap­ter as a Buff.

In April, Kafo­valu was ar­rested out­side the Sun­down Sa­loon in Boul­der. He was heav­ily in­tox­i­cated and was un­co­op­er­a­tive with bounc­ers and of­fi­cers. He was charged with ob­struct­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer.

Coach Mike Mac­In­tyre quickly sus­pended Kafo­valu from team ac­tiv­i­ties, and Kafo­valu feared he wouldn’t play again.

“Yeah, def­i­nitely,” he said. “I chose to go out that night and make a fool of my­self. I re­ally didn’t have my pri­or­i­ties straight and didn’t set the cor­rect goals.”

Mac­In­tyre didn’t give up on Kafo­valu, how­ever, when he very eas­ily could have done just that.

It was Kafo­valu’s third run-in with the law since com­ing to Boul­der. The other two hap­pened dur­ing Kafo­valu’s fresh­man year. He also missed the 2014 sea­son for per­sonal rea­sons, as he went back to his home in Cal­i­for­nia.

Kafo­valu took a plea deal in the lat­est case, and then had to earn his way back to the team over the sum­mer.

The de­ci­sion to stick by Kafo­valu had more to do with Kafo­valu’s fu­ture than it did about the 2016 sea­son. Mac­In­tyre wanted to give Kafo­valu a chance to make up for the mis­take and find suc­cess.

“That’s why you coach in col­lege. Pe­riod,” Mac­In­tyre said. “Those are life­long changes that re­ally makes it all worth­while. He’ll for­get the de­fen­sive calls we have. He’ll re­mem­ber some of the games, of course, but he’ll re­mem­ber how he over­came a lot of things to suc­ceed. I look at his fu­ture wife and his fu­ture fam­ily — that he’ll be a suc­cess with them and be solid. That’s truly a life­long thing to me.”

When Mac­In­tyre was hired at CU in De­cem­ber 2012 — af­ter Kafo­valu’s fresh­man sea­son — he made a point to get to know each of the play­ers. Kafo­valu still re­mem­bers meet­ing his new head coach.

“I felt like for both of us it was a mo­ment where real rec­og­nized real,” Kafo­valu said. “He kind of weeded out the bad things and some of my ex­pe­ri­ences I had be­fore. I told him about my life story a lit­tle bit, parts of it, and he told me about his. We could re­ally re­late.”

Kafo­valu said the two shared very per­sonal sto­ries with each other.

“My back­ground is that I have a lot of fam­ily that are al­co­holics,” he said. “It’s a self-in­flict­ing dis­ease. It’s self-treat­ing as well. I ab­so­lutely be­lieve that if you’re not willing to be in it, do it and give 100 per­cent full into your so­bri­ety to get­ting back on top of how things roll, it just keeps rolling down­hill from hav­ing this ‘FOMO’ — fear of miss­ing out on things.”

Mac­In­tyre un­der­stood Kafo­valu’s bat­tle and con­tin­ued to sup­port him and help him along the way.

“It’s how you bounce back and that’s what he ex­plained,” Kafo­valu said.

Buf­faloes de­fen­sive tackle Sam­son Kafo­valu trips up Wash­ing­ton State quar­ter­back Luke Falk in the third quar­ter Nov. 19 at Folsom Field. Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

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