Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 93 of 163

92 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY CHRIS BALAS R aising a teenager is often viewed as a bridge parents have to cross, no matter how shaky the foundation. There are many books on the sub- ject, one of the most popular being A Par- ent's Guide to Surviving the Teen Years. Bryan Mone's parents have been able to leave that one on the shelf. At 6-4 and 330 pounds, Michigan's sophomore nose tackle is a menacing presence who — if all goes as planned this fall — will command double teams and potentially become the corner- stone of an outstanding defense. He's also been his family's rock, far from the typical teen. Born in California after his parents, Havili and Sela Mone, moved from the small Pacific island of Tonga (part of a Polynesian island chain), Mone was always the kid with a toothy grin and a big heart, and the latter proved to be a blessing to a family that needed one. They'd moved from Tonga to California to find better care for their son Filimone, who was a year old when his family discovered there was something severely wrong with his development. Filimone ("Mone" to his brother) might have been the football player in the family had his growth not been stunted, his body racked with seizures that stopped his mus- cles from growing and contorted his limbs. One thing is certain, though: his brother wouldn't have been in the position he is had the family not moved to the United States. "He has always been my motivation," Mone said. A Humble Upbringing But it wasn't always by choice, he admit- ted. Though he never complained — it's not in his nature, those closest to him, like Mich- igan senior fullback Sione Houma, have said — he endured a lot of responsibility helping care for his older brother, and at a young age. He was in sixth grade and helping feed, clothe and bathe a man who couldn't recog- nize him or appreciate him for what he was doing, or even see him. There was still a bond, even if it wasn't as obvious as a pair of brothers playing ball in the yard. Mone's relationship and his sense of responsibility to his family — particularly his mother and his sister, Latu, who also dedicated their time to his brother's care — weighed on him when college coaches started calling. Utah, where the family moved in large part because of better health care opportuni- ties and its Tongan population, seemed like the logical choice. Mone had teammates headed there, and he would be closer to home and family. When his father lost his job and was forced to move to Hawaii for employment, temporarily leaving the rest of them behind, Mone faced even more pres- sure to stay home. But none of it came from his family. Mone fell in love with Michigan, especially valu- ing his relationship with former head coach Brady Hoke and then-defensive coordinator (and now defensive line coach) Greg Mat- tison, and was torn. His mother's blessing helped him make the toughest decision of his young life. "My dad leaving, that was really tough. I didn't really have him for a while," Mone said. "Without a doubt [leaving] was real hard, because one of my teammates commit- ted to Utah and we had been talking about it for a while, too. "Leaving my family was the hardest thing I've done in my life, especially my mom. I'm a momma's boy. It was tough. Family is everything. One of the reasons I left, though, was to make them happy and do better. It was pretty hard, but I knew my mom was straight on Michigan." His sister, too, insisted he do what he wanted even though she knew more of Fil- imone's care would fall on her. "She's like the man of the house now," Mone quipped. "She has a job and is taking care of my brother, too. She's a really, really hard worker. I give a lot of credit to my sister BIG MAN , BIG HEART Sophomore Defensive Tackle Bryan Mone Plays For His Family Mone expects a large contingent of his family to be in the stands when U-M travels to his home state of Utah to face the Utes in the 2015 season opener. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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