BOULDER, Colo. - Student-athletes are held to a higher standard than regular college students. Samson Kafovalu found that out the hard way. The sophomore defensive lineman had to sit out five of the Buffs' first six games this season due to various team rules violations. He also faced legal trouble due to an incident at a fraternity party back in February.
After playing just eight defensive snaps during the first half of the 2013 season, Kafovalu was reinstated and played 15 snaps against Arizona last Saturday. He announced his return to the lineup by recording a tackle for a loss and a third-down stop.
"I definitely struggled with not giving in to the temptations that students on campus face but the only thing I can do going forward is do my best," Kafovalu said. "I feel like last Saturday was a fresh start for me to come back in and rumble with the Pac-12."
His fresh start comes on the heels of a difficult period in his life. As the saying goes, you never know the value of what you have until you lose it.
"I worked on scout team and came to the team meetings [when I was suspended] but I knew I was missing something in my life that I can't live without. I love football," Kafovalu said. "I watched every away game on TV and I was yelling at the TV if somebody was in the wrong gap because I knew exactly what they should be doing. It was hard for me, knowing that I couldn't play. It is definitely something I appreciate and am going to continue to appreciate."
And if Kafovalu forgets for a day why he needs to stay out of trouble, Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre will be there to remind him.
"He has to come by and see me every day. And we talk every day," MacIntyre said. "Those are neat moments, they really are for me. He's turning a corner and I hope he keeps turning a corner. He did some good things the other night and he'll get some more playing time this week.
"I just love his energy he brings. I mean, like in practice today if you watched, he was jumping around. If somebody makes a big play he's whooping and hollering. He just has a lot of energy and I enjoy having that out there."
If for whatever reason MacIntyre's message does not get through to him, all he has to do is look in the mirror. A fresh start has also resulted in a fresh look for Kafovalu. He recently shaved his long hair.
Click Here to view this Link."I just remembered all the times as a kid when my dad would always shave my hair," he said. "I grew my hair out and kept it long in high school just to rebel but now I just want to go back to those old ways. I remember as a kid growing up and being a good kid and I want to continue conquering all the other stuff that is distracting me right now.
"It is fun to wake up and feel my short hair in the morning. And when I look in the mirror it reminds me of the days when I was a kid and didn't have too many worries. It definitely helps out in the showers, too. (laughing) It is fast and you don't have to use head and shoulders. I took a picture and sent it to my family and my grandmother was definitely proud of me for cutting it."
Kafovalu spent time at both defensive end and defensive tackle while playing 249 snaps and recording 20 tackles last season as a true freshman. He was running with the first-team defensive line at defensive end during spring ball this year, but is back inside playing defensive tackle.
"I just like playing and getting into guys and being aggressive in the trenches. I love it," he said. "I have to be coachable, continue to stay out of trouble and take care of business. That is my focus."