Nov. 11, 2000
by Bri Niemi
It's hard to believe that Marques Tuiasosopo has ever had an evil side. He is polite. He is respectful. Ask him about any personal record or accolade he has received and he is quick to remind you that he is one of eleven players on the field. He's smart, he's special, and, to parody Saturday Night Live's Stuart Smalley, 'gosh darnit, people just like him.' It's almost as if you can see the glowing, angelic wings coming out from underneath his purple jersey.
However, things haven't always been this way.
'I went through a bad phase when I was little, but I think I got rid of it all,' laughs the 6-2, 220-pound quarterback. 'I just could never sit still. When my parents would take us out to dinner I would climb all over the booth. Babysitters didn't want to baby-sit me because I would jump out of windows. My mom always said that it wasn't until the sixth grade that she actually started to like me. She always loved me, but she didn't always like me.'
Nowadays, likeability is something Tuiasosopo need not worry about. Coming out of Woodinville High School, 20 minutes north of Seattle, Tuiasosopo has made a name for himself among the many elite quarterbacks that the Huskies have seen. The decision to don purple and gold was not a hard one for him to make.
'I looked at a lot of schools but Washington had everything that I wanted,' he says. 'First off, I wanted to go to a school that offered the area of academics that I was interested in, which was the business school. I loved Seattle and all that the city had to offer. The football program was everything that I was looking for and I got along really well with the players, but what put it over the top was that my family would be so close together. Everything just fit, and it felt like the right place for me to be.'
Along with the aforementioned, Tuiasosopo also had the desire to play quarterback. During high school he was known for his versatility on the field in playing safety, quarterback, punter, and holder on special teams. While many schools recruited him to play in the defensive backfield, Washington was one school to take him seriously on the offensive side of the field.
'Most coaches wanted me to play safety or linebacker and there were times when I almost decided to do that,' he recalls, 'but there was this other side of me that wanted to play quarterback. It's something that I have naturally done all my life, since the days of street football. I love the position. I thought I had the ability to play and Washington was very sincere about giving me a legitimate shot at it.'
His shot at running the offense might have come sooner than he expected. With starting quarterback Brock Huard going out with an ankle injury in the first quarter of play against Nebraska in 1997, Tuiasosopo received the nod and saw the first significant playing time of his collegiate career, as a true freshman. While fans will remember that game for his amazing poise and control, along with his 12-for-22 passing and two touchdowns, Tuiasosopo claims it was his worst moment as a Husky.
'Losing to Nebraska was really hard because of the look on the faces of the seniors,' says Tuiasosopo. 'I wished that there were more things I could've done to help those guys win.'
With his freshman year heroics, Tuiasosopo became the man in waiting, and another bright spot in the future of Husky football. Most often compared to former quarterback Mark Brunell because of his ability to run and take a hit, Tuiasosopo has broken records in both the Husky and NCAA books. His 1999 performance against Stanford, in which he passed for 302 yards and rushed for 207 more, made NCAA history as became the first player in NCAA history to achieve the 300-200 double. Most recently, he climbed to the top of the Husky charts, claiming first place in career total offense (6,034 as of the Cal game) to surpass Damon Huard's old mark of 5,813 total yards.
'Marques is a joy to coach,' says head coach Rick Neuheisel. 'I have been quoted often as saying he is everything you look for in a quarterback. He has got size, speed, and arm strength. Aside from the physical characteristics he is a remarkable person. He has got the desire, the work ethic, the charisma, and unbelievable leadership skills. He is one of those type of players who causes everyone around him to take their game up a notch, just because they want to be like him. We only wish he could be around for a little longer.'
While most would agree with Neuheisel's desire to keep the senior around for a few more years, his final season in Husky Stadium will come to an end against the UCLA Bruins. While there have been highs and lows, both on and off the field, they are all memories that Tuiasosopo will cherish forever.
'I've played a lot of games and spent a lot of time practicing in that stadium and the last game is going to be very emotional for me,' he says. 'People always say that you remember your last game the most, but I am going to try hard to hold back the emotions so I can play my best. Afterwards it will be pretty tough to leave the field -- they will probably have to drag me off.
'The class that I am going to graduate with means a lot to me, we have been through so much. We came together and said that before we left the University of Washington, we were going to make our mark on Husky football.'
The success that Tuiasosopo has seen he credits in part to his faith in God, and the support of his parents, Manu and Tina Tuiasosopo.
'They never pushed us to do anything,' he says. 'They have always been by my side and helped me through everything. They pat me on the back when I've done a good job and they are there to pick me up when I fail.'
Fortunately, the good jobs have been much more prevalent than any failures. For Tuiasosopo, the end of one football career means a potential start to a new, professional career. For fans, the tongue twister will be around for a while longer as younger brother Zach keeps the long line of Tuiasosopo greats in the game of football. For now, the elder brother will be the one to help guide the team back to the top.
'I want Husky fans to remember me as a guy who played his heart out, a guy who was a warrior,' Tuiasosopo says. 'Someone who would never let a Saturday go by with out giving it his best shot, and never bowing down to a challenge. I want them to remember me as someone who would do anything for Husky football and his teammates. I want them to know that I appreciated and respected the game the way that Husky football should be upheld.'
The little devil has become a Husky fan's angel. Maybe those are wings after all.