Gapelu Uses Polynesian Background as Basis for Work Ethic and Success
Nov. 11, 2011
LOGAN, Utah -
By Megan Allen / USU Athletic Media Relations
Philip Gapelu is a natural leader, though he doesn't do it the way others do. By focusing more on the example he's setting, he gets his team to work hard and do the best they can.
"If something needs to be said, I'll say it, but I try to lead more by example," Gapelu said. "I feel like what I do is more important than what I say."
As he has gone through his five seasons as an Aggie, he has learned what does and what doesn't work. He looks out for his teammates and tries to help them succeed.
"I think most people would consider me a leader because of how I act. I'm more playful with people. I look out for my teammates in a genuine way," Gapelu said. "If something isn't working, I do it different way and people tend to follow me."
Gapelu came to Logan for the 2007 season, but spent the first year as a redshirt. In the 2008 season, he saw action in all but two games, and halfway through the season, he had earned a starting position along the offensive line, a spot he has kept since, starting 31-straight games in his career and 36 overall both of which rank second on the team.
"Being a starter just takes a lot of time and dedication. When I first got the position I wasn't really sure why, but as each year goes on, it sinks in a little bit more," Gapelu said. "You have to fight at every level. There's a lot of film study and work in the weight room. Working on technique is really important too."
As one of the few players to come in under the Brent Guy staff and have two years under him, Gapelu really got to experience the difference in the old regime under Coach Guy and the new regime under head coach Gary Andersen and the ways they ran the Utah State program.
"Their coaching styles were just different. They have very different personalities and methods," Gapelu said. "What Coach Andersen brings is completely different. He looks out for each of us individually. I think the way he runs the program is a better fit for us."
However, that is not to say Coach Guy was not personable. He and his staff were the ones to bring Gapelu to Utah State and the way he was treated by the staff was the final factor that made the decision to come.
"My trip out here was fun. The coaching staff was very personable with me. I was getting calls and things all the time, they just made me feel wanted," Gapelu said. "Plus, I'd never been in snow, so that was a fun experience."
Andersen and his coaching staff have gone out of their way to recruit players that come from Polynesian backgrounds. Defensive line coach Frank Maile and running backs coach Ilaisa Tuiaki have used their culture and backgrounds as a way to draw the Polynesian kids to Logan.
The Polynesian members of the team have become close friends, more like brothers, Gapelu said.
"We didn't know each other before we got up here. We've all gotten really close and are just a sort of family," Gapelu said. "Coach Andersen goes out and wants to recruit Polys. Coach Maile and Coach Tuiaki go out and search for guys like us. They see us as a benefit for the program."
Anyone on the current Utah State team will tell you they are not where they would like to be right now. The season has not gone as smoothly as they would have liked or as they hoped. However, no one has given up. No one is planning on giving up.
"We're just going to go game-by-game now. We want to win these next four in a row," Gapelu said. "We want to achieve our goal of a WAC title and a bowl game appearance. That's somewhere Utah State football has not been in a really long time and we want to be the group to change that."
Gapelu's personal background and hard work ethic are motivating him to keep going and finish the season on a high note.
"Individually, I just want to finish this year off strong. I don't want to blow it off," Gapelu said. "I'm going to keep coming to practice and keep maintaining my habits to do the best that I can do."
That hard work is what has gotten him through his years of playing football. It is also what he knows will get him through the rest of his life.
"I want to continue playing football. Whether it's the NFL or in Canada or Arena League, I just want to keep playing," Gapelu said. "If that doesn't work out I've kind of been thinking about going into law enforcement or something like that."
No matter which direction his life takes him, the work ethic he has learned will apply in the real world.
"The one big lesson is just that hard work pays off. Nothing comes easy. No matter what I've tried to accomplish while I'm up here, hard work has been necessary. It's gotten to the point that I can't really even enjoy something unless I've had to work for it," Gapelu said. "In the next level of life, I'll still have to work hard to get where I want in life."