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RENO – Family is everything to Joshua Mauga.
The 6-3, 240-pound Mauga has seven siblings, five sisters and two brothers, and they are a tight-knit group. It’s those family ties and the built-in support system that comes along with a big family that prompted Mauga, who moved to Northern Nevada in the mid-90s, to stay home and play football for Nevada rather than go to any one of several Pac-10 or Mountain West schools that were clamoring for his services.
It was a decision he has never regretted.
“It was a chance to have them come watch me play at all the home games,” said Mauga, who leads the Wolf Pack into Saturday’s game against archrival UNLV at Mackay Stadium. “It’s only an hour away for me. My dad (Matua) goes to away games sometimes, especially San Jose State or Fresno State.
“Everybody still lives in the same house. Every weekend we have family barbecues. Growing up, we’d never go anywhere without each other.”
Mauga said that living in a small town like Fallon, probably contributed to the tight-knit, family feeling.
“We always got along with each other (brothers and sisters) growing up,” said Mauga, who is the second-oldest in the family. “That’s something my parents talked a lot about as we were growing up. I knew no matter what, even if we did something bad, the family would still be there for you. They are proud of me.”
Games at Nevada are a family affair for the Mauga clan. Joshua said there are a couple of teammates that always give him their extra tickets so he can get his whole family in.
No doubt the excitement around the Mauga household has gone up immensely with the game against the Rebels coming up.
“The game is probably the biggest of the season, including Boise State and Nebraska,” Mauga said. “You’re playing for the (Fremont) cannon and the championship of Nevada.”
Though you sense his excitement, you probably won’t hear much else from him on that subject or any other.
“He leads by example,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “He’s not a rah-rah type. He doesn’t talk all that much. He’s silent, but deadly.
“Josh has had a terrific year. He’s been an impact player. Josh by far has been our most productive player.”
And, the numbers prove it. Through three games, Mauga has chalked up 38 tackles (15 solo, 23 assists), which is second-best in the Western Athletic Conference and seventh in the nation at nearly 13 a game.
“It’s exciting,” Mauga said when told of his ranking. “You never, ever think about being one of the top tacklers (in the country). I just try to play hard and hopefully good things will happen.
“It (the game) has slowed down a lot, especially when you play teams that you have already played. You already have a feel for what they are going to run. I know what I need to do, and how fast I need to play; stuff like that.”
And, Mauga isn’t just being modest. He’s as true blue as they come. With him, individual stats are secondary compared to the success of the whole defense.
“He’s 100 percent selfless,” fellow linebacker Kevin Porter said. “There has never been a hint of I or me. He’s not the type of guy to show off or boast. He might make any number of good plays, and you would never know it.”
Mauga is an example of Ault’s ability to track better athletes to the Reno campus. Ault said Mauga ranked in the top-10 in terms of players he has recruited.
Porter said you could tell that Mauga was something special the minute he stepped onto the field. Mauga played in every game as a true freshman, starting nine. Of his 32 tackles, six were behind the line.
“You could see he had some ability,” Porter said. “He worked his way into the starting line-up almost immediately.
“He’s a great player, physically and mentally. He’s an impact player. I think he’s in his own league.”
Mauga admits that first season was a difficult one.
“It was tough for me getting adjusted to the speed of the game,” he said. “J.J. Milan was down with an injury, and they needed depth. The coaches were great working with me to get ready to play my freshman season. It was very different, a lot harder than playing in the middle because you are playing in space.”
“We knew he had the quickness to do it, and he did a great job,” Ault said. “He’s done a great job ever since.”
• Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281
THE MAUGA FILE
Year in school: Junior
High school: Fallon