JACKSON GARDNER | Evergreen reporter
Cougar seniors will play their last game at Martin Stadium on Saturday, and senior linebacker Franki Luvu’s family will be there to witness all his hard work paying off. Over half his family has yet to watch him play a college game live.
Luvu hails from Tafuna, American Samoa, so getting his entire family to travel more than 5,000 miles over the Pacific Ocean is not something that happens overnight.
Their family reunion has been in the works before the 2017 season kicked off, Luvu said. This is all before he posted career highs in sacks and tackles for a loss with three regular season games to go.
“I am beyond excited to see the baby of my family play,” Luvu’s sister Lusiana Luvu-Thompson said. “Not only me, our whole family, especially our dad. It’s been a rollercoaster ride getting our dad to be able to travel to the U.S.”
For the first time, Frankie’s father Veresa Luvu will step off “the rock,” as Luvu describes American Samoa, and travel to the U.S. Luvu’s dad has overcome multiple health issues to be fit to make the trip.
Among other complications, Luvu’s dad is not a citizen of the U.S. and getting his visa was a process that lasted several months. When Luvu was asked about the complexity of the process, he could only shake his head with a smile because it was done.
The timing of the reunion couldn’t have been planned better. Luvu will get an opportunity to spend a Dad’s Weekend, with his own father.
One of the people to match Luvu’s excitement for the reunion is Ella Dederick, WSU soccer junior goalkeeper and Luvu’s girlfriend.
While Luvu has met Dederick’s family, Dederick has not had the chance to meet the Luvus. It is an opportunity she will cherish. But Dederick has obligations in Seattle on Friday when WSU soccer plays University of Washington.
The soccer team’s plane is scheduled to land back in Pullman a couple hours before kickoff Saturday. Dederick plans to exit the plane and head directly to Martin Stadium to formally meet the Luvu’s on the sideline.
Most Cougar fans know the soft-spoken, physically intimidating Luvu on the field, but few know the inner workings of Luvu like Dederick.
“I really think over the past year, he has changed into such a great person, and really matured,” Dederick said. “He is ready for anything that comes his way.”
The respectful and family-oriented demeanor of Luvu has earned him a spot in the hearts of Dederick and her family, as well as many of her teammates and their families, she said. His love for family goes beyond his own kin, Dederick said.
If Luvu isn’t playing football, it’s possible he is on the soccer field with Dederick. Luvu, who formally represented the American Samoa U-17 national team as a midfielder, still keeps some of his old form.
He enjoys passing the ball around with Dederick, but when the competitive edge spurs in them, Luvu will take a few shots on goal against her.
“It’s too fast for her, she can’t handle it,” Luvu said with a sarcastic smile.
Upon realizing the implications this statement could have, Luvu was quick to say he was joking and gave credit to his girlfriend for her goalkeeping skills.
Even Dederick said Luvu’s shot has a surprising amount of velocity. It may not be as frightening as Luvu is on defense to opposing teams, but it is enough to give her a scare she said.