Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Thirty-five years ago, Joel Tuialeva used to walk by Robert Anae and his older brother Brad and flick their ears.
The Anae brothers were water boys for the Kahuku High School football team in Hawaii. Not yet old enough to play, the Anae brothers hung around the squad and helped manage equipment. Tuialeva was a linebacker and the Red Raider coach, Famika Anae, was Brad and Robert's dad. When Coach Famika didn't play Tuialeva, he'd take it out on his boys, teasing them with the pesty finger flick.
That was before the Anae boys grew. And grew and grew. Now, Tuialeva doesn't mess with the Anae boys. He speaks in reverent tones about his coach, the late Famika Anae, who passed on 22 years ago.
"This is a great family and Robert is the rock, the anchor of them all," Tuialeva said.
Robert Anae was the first hire by Bronco Mendenhall as he took the reins of BYU football when Gary Crowton resigned under pressure. The former offensive line coach at Texas Tech, Anae was promoted to offensive coordinator by Mendenhall and expects the big Samoan and native of Hawaii's north shore to follow in the footsteps of Crowton, Norm Chow, Mike Holmgren, and Doug Scovil.
Anae is a serious man, all business. His sense of humor is subtle, maybe a little sarcastic. He is part John Wayne, part Vin Diesel with some Norm Chow mixed in.
When asked for a 45-minute interview, Anae's reaction was both unpretentious and incredulous. "What do you need 45 minutes for? What can we do in 40 minutes that we can't in five? All you have to know about me is completing passes, third down conversions and no turnovers. There's not much more than that. I am not a teddy bear. I'm pretty much a boring guy."
In his spare time, Anae doesn't watch movies and he doesn't read a lot
of books. If he reads, it's the Book of Mormon, the Samoan translation. When he coached at Ricks College, some friends got him to try flyfishing and he liked it. But his favorite thing to do if he had a choice is to surf. His favorite food is ethnic Tongan-Samoan lupulu with Hawaiian poi and corned beef, that and Texas brisket.
"The problem with me, is I hate talking about myself. I just plain hate talking about myself."
When BYU hired Anae, he had one big concern, that BYU wouldn't like his rough edges, his direct approach, his demanding style, his distaste for babying athletes who need just the opposite.
Anae coaches with an edge, he wasn't sure if BYU wanted that.
"I'm a tough guy. That's how I coach, how I live, how I am, how I played. I learned that right here on this field. Guys like Roger French and Norm Chow. Those are the guys who influenced me the most. Chow was technical and smart. But when you answer to Roger the Dodger, you can't help but toughen your grip on your mental capacity.
"That's been my whole approach as a player and coach. Those were some of the first conversations I had when approached to come back here: Yes, I am a BYU guy. Yes, I love BYU. Yes, I'd like to come. Yes, yes, yes, but you have to understand me. Are your sure your want this? It was better received than I thought it would be."
Anae's father Famika was one of the first Polynesian football players recruited to play at BYU. Famika's parents, Auaileo Tame'ame'a and Vasati Tevaga Anae migrated to Hawaii from Western Samoa to build the LDS temple at Laie in 1913. The Anae family goes way back in that Mormon settlement on the north shore of Oahu. Robert's older brother Brad remains in Hawaii in the independent produce business. While Brad, Robert and brother Matt played at BYU, a sister, Wendy, was just named the head girl's basketball coach at Timpview High School in Provo.
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