Joe Salave'a will be joining Mike Leach at Washington State after spending this past season at Arizona coaching the defensive line. Salave'a was an all-Pac-10 defensive tackle at Arizona in the late 1990s before being drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the 1998 NFL Draft. The big defensive tackle from American Samoa spent nine years in the NFL with the Titans, Ravens, Chargers and Redskins.
Salave'a began his coaching career in 2008, when he was hired by Dick Tomey to serve as a defensive assistant at San Jose State. He spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons with Tormey at San Jose State. Prior to the 2011 season, Salave'a joined the Arizona staff, working as the Wildcats' defensive line coach.
As Leach ran down an outline of his recruiting strategy, he hit all the points one would expect a head coach in the state of Washington to place an emphasis on. He talked of grabbing in-state talent, as well as recruiting Northern and Southern California. But he closed by talking about the islands, launching into a tangent about the talented players the area produces.
Which is where Salave'a comes into play. From his bio at Arizona:
A native of Leone, American Samoa, Salave'a has been one of the territory's foremost football ambassadors promoting the game among Samoan youth, including founding a foundation to help introduce the game and strengthen its appeal.
He founded the Joe Salave'a Foundation in 2001. The foundation specializes in free football clinics for youngsters in American Samoa and Hawai'i.
At Arizona, Salave'a was responsible for recruiting Los Angeles, Nevada, Washington and the islands. One can safely assume Salave'a will be a key player in Leach's recruiting strategy and will continue in his role an ambassador to American Samoa.
It's also interesting to note Salave'a is one of the only, if not the only, hires without a significant tie to Leach. The rest of the staff is populated by former players, coaching colleagues and friends, but as far as I can tell there's no existing tie between Leach and Salave'a. It's not a bad thing, but it says a lot about Salave'a that Leach values what he brings to the table enough, and trusts him, to add him to the staff.
I like this hire a lot. Salave'a will be coaching the position he played, which makes a whole lot of sense considering what we've seen so far. He gives Leach a foot in the door in the islands, perhaps giving the Cougars a recruiting advantage. Most of all, though, Salave'a just seems like a great person -- he went from American Samoa to the NFL, and has continued to give back to his home since. He also looks like a guy that could snap me like a twig, so I don't plan on writing anything negative about him ever.
All kidding aside, Salave'a brings a lot to Leach's staff and it should be fun to watch him go to work on the recruiting trail. As for the rest of the staff, we'll be back with more on it later. I've done eight profiles thus far, and Leach has confirmed seven coaches have been at work. We'll try to explain what's going on and why there's a delay in announcing the staff -- as well as why it's not worrisome -- shortly.