Deuce Lutui is a warrior for his team, family and faith

Published: Monday, Dec. 27 2010 5:00 a.m. MST

"It wasn't an invitation; it was a mandate," Chow said. "When a Mormon plays for programs like USC or UCLA, you have a chance to be an example to a lot of people. (Speaking at firesides) also helps you stay close to the church."

By playing hard on the field and sharing his beliefs in a friendly way, Lutui gained the respect and admiration of his teammates.

"Deuce Lutui is a far-reaching individual," Chow said. "He is very well respected in many areas, not only in the church, but as an NFL player."

Perhaps one of Lutui's great memories of USC came right after the Trojans beat Oklahoma for the 2004 national championship in Miami. Lutui was able to return in time for Pua to give birth to their first child, whom they named Inoke. All four of the couple's children were born on game days.

The Roman soldier

Lutui was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the second round of the 2006 draft. Then-Cardinals coach Dennis Green referred to Lutui as a "road grader," and it didn't take the muscular 6-foot-4, 330-pound guard long to solidify himself as a starter on the offensive line.

"Deucey embodies the very best of Tongan characteristics. He has enormous faith. He is loving and charitable," Sikahema said. "But on the field of battle, he will cut your heart out."

A few months before his second year in the league in 2007, Lutui approached organizers of the annual Mesa Arizona Easter Pageant and offered his acting skills. He had attended the pageant as a boy and had always dreamed of playing the role of a Roman soldier. It turned out they needed one more soldier. Pageant director Nanci Wudel made Lutui promise he would use his celebrity status to help promote the pageant.

It was a deal, Lutui agreed.

"I thought it was a good opportunity to do some missionary work," he said.

When word leaked that the massive NFL lineman was on the cast, the news media swarmed to report the story. Lutui only granted interviews, however, if reporters went with him on a guided tour of the Mesa Temple visitors' center. The interview typically concluded with Lutui's testimony of the gospel. He invited his coaches and teammates to attend the pageant and offered to visit with young men from local wards and stakes after each rehearsal.

"He was such an example, so spiritual, kind and humble, no ego whatsoever," Wudel said. "You would never know he was an NFL football player."

Aside from blocking his stage movements using Xs and Os, a favorite memory for Wudel was seeing Deuce in his toga, leather armor and plumed helmet. "He was perfect for the role," she said.

Super moments

On the morning of Feb. 1, 2009, Raymond James Stadium was the center of the universe. NFL fans around the globe were buzzing in anticipation of the mega matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. In roughly six hours, more than 150 million viewers would tune in for the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLIII.

While the world focused on football, one Arizona player was lost in spiritual reflection.

Lutui was taking the sacrament. He pondered the Atonement of Jesus Christ and thought of his parents, who were back in Arizona attending church meetings. In six hours he intended to pancake Pittsburgh's 300-pound defensive linemen in the trenches, but his baptismal covenants were of higher concern at the moment.

"We didn't win that game, but partaking of the sacrament was the most important part of the day," Lutui said.

The Super Bowl was not the first game his parents missed. The Lutuis elected not to attend his Sunday NFL games when he entered the league, with one exception. Lutui's mother once accompanied a relative visiting from Tonga. When Lutui injured his knee in that game, he joked, "See what happens when you come, Mom?"

"When it comes to Sundays they have made a covenant to keep the Sabbath Day holy," Lutui said. "They go to church and remember me in their prayers. They have been a huge part of my career success."

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