Logo Tevaseu was holed up in his dorm room last month writing a short autobiography for a scholarship.
He wasn't sure where to begin.
How do you explain it? How can you possibly get some suit who grew up in an entirely different world to see where you have come from?
Tevaseu pondered it.
“It always comes back to the same thing,” the TCU linebacker said. “I never thought I would be writing that letter. I've made so much progress in the last six years. I haven't thought about all that for a while, but if I would have had to serve time, I would be getting out of jail next month. It's been six years and five months since my life has completely changed.”
This is a story about a kid who could have been trapped.
It's about a kid who did things he'd rather forget in the tough neighborhoods of the Bay Area, but somehow, some way wound up in Texas playing football, and will suit up as a linebacker for the No. 19 Horned Frogs on Tuesday night in the inaugural PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl.
It's a tale about a kid who has gone from living in an environment where guns were routinely pointed in his direction to filling out a college scholarship application.
It's about a kid who made it.
“Logo appreciates things a lot more than most guys would ever really understand,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “He's seen what the other side is like.”
Where do you begin? The arrest? The moment his life was altered?
No, it has to begin where it really started.
Logologoa Taumaloto Tevaseu (pronounced tay-VAH-soo) grew up with his mother, Debby Tevaseu, in a Bay Area neighborhood where outsiders don't make the mistake of a wrong turn.
Bobo, Tevaseu's father, was never in the picture. He went to prison for homicide before the kid was even born and, as far as Logo knows, he's still there.
The neighborhood he grew up in was a scene straight out of a bad movie. There were drugs, drive-bys, robberies and gangs. There were sets, which were basically gangs that had staked claims to a block the way explorers once snared land. It was a wasteland, and everything in it became a part of it.
Tevaseu wasn't any different.
The 14-year old smoked and drank. He got into fights simply for the sake of fighting. He was as much a part of his surroundings as anyone else.
“I was always making bad decisions,” he said. “If you can think of something bad people were doing on the streets, I probably did it. I was probably the ringleader getting other guys to do it.”
Tevaseu was like everyone else. He was trying to snare every scrap he could in order to help out his family.
He did things, things he'd rather not describe, because that's the way life was in this setting.
It was about survival.
“I remember waking up for school one morning and there was a guy seriously trying to kill us,” he said. “When someone is waking up before 7am to get you, they're really after you.”
He lived to tell that story. He doesn't know how. The guy just disappeared, but people have a way of doing that on the streets.
It was eventually Tevaseu's turn to vanish, but it was the state that came down on him.
He was arrested for reasons he doesn't want to disclose and was sent to juvenile hall. One judge deemed him “a menace to society,” and he wasn't allowed to return to the streets.
Tevaseu was sentenced to 6-1/2 years in prison unless a shelter was willing to deal with him.
Five boys' homes interviewed him and walked away. Five others didn't even get that far. They looked at his file and didn't bother asking him a single question.
But nearly three days before Tevaseu was scheduled for a transfer to the California Youth Authority (a prison for minors) to begin serving his time, Jack Graves reviewed his file and gave him his last chance to become something.
He gave him an opportunity to get out of the mess and the surroundings that were set to end his life.
“There were some bad things in that report, and he was definitely a tough delinquent,” said Graves, who runs a boys' shelter called Life Works in Anderson Valley, California. “But I sort of like being a guy's last chance, because I believe everyone deserves that. He was on his way to life in prison or something worse. We had to show them there was another way.”
Graves' program includes 12 to 16 young males who have backgrounds like Tevaseu's. Life Works is set in a rural environment and is essentially run like a boot camp. Guys get stronger to see physical results and build self-esteem. The program uses that momentum and applies it to academics.
It took Tevaseu nearly six months to come around, but eventually he found in Graves the closest thing to a father figure in his life.
Graves steered Tevaseu into sports and got him into high school.
“I had never been to high school,” Tevaseu said. “I was expelled from elementary school.”
The kid who could have been serving prison time became an honor roll student. He was voted student-body president of Anderson Valley High School and eventually became a staff member at Life Works.
He also became a pretty good football player.
The 5-foot-9, 210-pound linebacker earned a scholarship to Santa Rosa Junior College and wound up on the radar of schools like Oregon State, Fresno State and California after his first season.
But he couldn't leave after that initial season. Tevaseu had to stay another year because he had brought his two younger brothers, Tanoa and Martin, into Graves' program to keep them from heading down his old path.
“I had to make sure they were right before I could leave,” he said. Tanoa has since graduated from high school, and Martin is on his way.
The following season Tevaseu deemed himself available. A coach at the junior college, Lenny Wagner, contacted Patterson because he thought the kid had something.
“I went on the recruiting visit out there, and coach Patterson called me and asked me what I thought,” TCU linebackers coach Kyle Nystrom said. “I said I couldn't believe how short he was, but he was like a pit bull with a helmet on. It didn't matter that he was small, because no one could block him.”
Since arriving at the school, Tevaseu has developed into a critical special teams player and has seen some play at linebacker. His playing time could increase next season.
But that's not really what matters to him.
“I enjoy playing football, but I'm more worried about getting a degree,” he said. “I always feel like I have to be doing something to better myself. I'm either hitting the books or working out. I don't spend too much time hanging out. I think hanging out is kind of a waste of time.”
Instead, he fills out scholarship applications and tries to explain himself on a sheet of paper.
He has discovered a beginning.
“If I hadn't been given a second chance, I'd probably head right back into that world after prison,” Tevaseu said. “I might have wound up in a gang or something. I could have wound up being killed, like some of my friends. So I feel like I'm doing something now. I feel like I've made it. This is everything.”
(Courtesy, the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram.)