On and off the field: Devin and Kevin Unga
Although Devin and Kevin Unga have traveled from California to Hawaii and beyond, they have finally found a resting spot in Corvallis with the football team
Published: Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
By Grady GarrettThe Daily Barometer
Before departing for Chile and Guatemala in June of 2007, twin brothers Kevin and Devin Unga flew from their home state of Hawaii to Corvallis, Ore., where they met with Oregon State coaches.
After meeting with head coach Mike Riley, the two returned to Hawaii knowing that when they completed their two year LDS missions, they'd have a roster spot waiting for them at one of the Pac-10's premier football programs.
For the ensuing two years, the two lived the life of a Mormon missionary. That means essentially no contact with the outside world, so keeping tabs on their future school and teammates was out of the question. Devin, who resided in Guatemala, remembers hearing only one thing.
"I knew nothing," Devin said. "The only thing I heard about was this small running back that runs like lightning."
Thousands of miles away in Chile, Kevin knew nothing either, until he checked his e-mails early one Monday morning.
"I had heard nothing about Oregon State since I'd been there," Kevin said. "Then I checked my e-mails, and like four or five people sent me something about Oregon State beating USC.
"That's when it hit me," Kevin said. "I felt that pride, knowing that I was going to eventually be there, and that someday I'd be a part of that program."
For the two 21-year-old true freshman, that day has finally arrived.
Devin, a 6-foot-1-inch, 215-pound linebacker who goes by "Uani," and Kevin, a 6-foot-1-inch, 223-pound linebacker who goes by "Feti," now find themselves living the lives of Oregon State football players.
Their time on the mission taught them a lot, but their return to the football field, which came when the two arrived home in June was long, and eagerly awaited.
"On the mission you don't get any interaction with anything, so your desire to play football just builds up," Uani said. "The first day out here I just let it all out. It's great to get back to what I love."
Switching from one life to the other wasn't easy.
"The transition between being a missionary and a college student was the hardest part," Feti said. "The two lifestyles are very different."
While on his mission, Feti had to wake up at 6:30 a.m. every morning, study scripture until 11 a.m., go out for the day, and then return at 10 p.m. for bed.
"It takes the energy out of someone, but it helped me grow in maturity," Feti said.
That lifestyle helped Feti build self-discipline that reaps benefits on the football field nowadays. But it also developed some habits that Feti isn't as fond of.
"I have late classes so I want to sleep in," Feti said, "but I can't anymore!"
Feti enjoys his free time in the morning, but come afternoon, it's business as usual on the practice field with his brother at his side.
"We always dreamed about playing (college football) together," Uani said. "If we got an offer from the same school, we were going to take it."
The brothers moved to Hawaii their junior year of high school to live with their grandmother after their grandfather passed away. The boys - whose parents stayed behind in Rochester, Calif. - played football at Kahuku High School.
Feti played well enough to gain interest from Oregon State, and made the trip to the Northwest for a recruiting visit late in his senior year. His brother stayed by his side.
"I tagged along," Uani said. "I didn't know they were interested in me, then Coach Riley said they wanted us both. As soon as he talked to us about it, we sealed the deal."
It was the coaches that sold the brothers.
"They know how to work with my interests," Uani said. "I'm more of a family-oriented guy, and religion has a big part in my life as well. I can see those same values in the coaching staff."
The Unga's immediate family consists of nine total children, and their extended family is rich in football tradition. Their brother, Paul, played football at Arizona State. They have one cousin who plays fullback for the Minnesota Vikings currently, and another who played running back for the Philadelphia Eagles. Their uncle also played in the NFL.
Right now, the Unga brothers are trying to make their mark as special team standouts for the Rose Bowl-seeking Beavers.
Uani is a second-string linebacker, and plays on all four of the major special team units (kick-off, kick-off return, punt, punt return).
"I'm just looking forward to working my way up the depth chart," Uani said.
Feti is a backup linebacker as well, and also plays on the kick-off and kick-off return teams.
"I'm looking up to those who are captains and hoping that one day I'll take their place and try to fit my feet in their shoes," Feti said.
For now, the two are satisfied with the time they do see on the field together.
"Kick-off is really fun," Feti said. "He's on the left, I'm on the right, and we just try to go down and do what we do."
So when Oregon State lines up for the opening kick-off at Autzen Stadium next week, it'll be one Unga wearing No. 41 on one side, and another Unga wearing No. 44 on the other.
And this time, the brothers won't need a Monday morning e-mail to tell them what happened.
Grady Garrett, sports writer