Suiaunoa has gone from high school coach to EOU coordinator

Written by Casey Kellas, The Observer November 01, 2013 11:38 am

The Frontier Conference isn’t known for its defense. The conference is more about yards and points in bunches.

But for the past four seasons, Eastern Oregon University Defensive Coordinator Levi Suiaunoa’s job has been trying to stop, or at least slow down, the potent offenses of the Frontier Conference’s elite teams.

But growing up the son of a coach, Suiaunoa never thought he’d actually become one himself.

Born and raised in American Samoa, Suiaunoa played quarterback at Leone High School. 

He started all four years, losing only two games.

“I just liked football in general,” Suiaunoa said. “I liked taking control of the huddle and telling everyone where to go. Actually, I only played quarterback because I was the only one who could remember the plays.”

Following high school, Suiaunoa got his first coaching gig coaching quarterbacks at Nu’uuli Polytechnical High School. He coached there for two seasons before returning to his alma mater where he continued coaching quarterbacks.

In 2008, Suiaunoa came stateside where he coached offensive and defensive line at Procter Hug High School in Reno, Nev.

Suiaunoa’s brother, Legi, was the defensive coordinator for EOU at the time and asked Levi if he wanted to join the staff. 

Suiaunoa joined the Mountaineers as the defensive line coach before rising to defensive coordinator.

“Coaching wasn’t the plan,” Suiaunoa said. “But my dad was a high school coach and took us to practice and to the games. But it’s a passion. You grow up (around it).My high school coaches made a big difference in my life.”

Suiaunoa is Head Coach Tim Camp’s longest tenured assistant.

“He is a great man,” Camp said. “He treats the kids the way they need to be treated. He’s hard on them, but the players who play for him (play hard).”

Suiaunoa said that having a quarterback background has helped him coach the defensive side of the ball.

“It helps,” he said. “Here and there you kind of feel what (opposing quarterbacks) are going to do. Not much. We’re giving up a lot of points. But it helps to a certain point.”

Suiaunoa said that each week in the Frontier Conference is a new challenge in and of itself. One that he is now very familiar with.

“The conference has switched to more open, spread offenses,” Suiaunoa said. “You have to stop them. They’re trying to spread the field out and get people in space. And we have to match their athlete with our athlete. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t.”

Suiaunoa added that he does one day want to run a program himself, but doesn’t know when that will be.

“I don’t think you become a coordinator without having those aspirations,” he said. “Just to become a head coach, I think everyone builds their own philosophy on how to run their own program. You can’t have those ideas and not want to apply them. I’ve learned a lot about Coach Camp and just taking care of players. You take care of players, they’ll take care of you.”

He said the most satisfying thing about coaching is seeing the players be successful off the field.

“Senior day is always emotional,” Suiaunoa said. “But at the same time you know that they are well on their way. Our job was to mentor and try to make a positive influence on their lives. You want to see how these guys turn out. Which, usually for us, is pretty good.”