Manusamoa Luuga's upbringing differed greatly from many other FCS football players.
His father served in the United States Army for 24 years. Like many military families, Luuga's moved around quite a bit. "I was born in North Carolina, went to Alaska, Fort Lewis, Germany, then California," he said of his childhood. "Every one of those places feels like a piece of home because of my friends. That's what makes them home for me."
He brings a piece of those places everywhere he goes. And right now, he goes wherever UC Davis football goes.
Luuga turned down offers from several prestigious military academies to attend UC Davis, including the Naval Academy, West Point, and Air Force. "At the end of the day if I want to join the military when I graduate I still can, so it's not like the door for that is closed all the way. I'm definitely happy with my decision and I don't regret it at all."
So far it's been a good call. The senior running back ranks second in the Big Sky in scoring with five touchdowns on the year. Three of those scores came in the Mustangs' first game of the season against Oregon. He's seventh in the conference in rushing yards as well, but that number should climb considering two of UC Davis' first three games were against FBS teams.
He's happy where he is. "One reason I went to UC Davis, I moved around a lot when I was younger and I decided I wanted something a little familiar."
But his father's influence is still something he takes seriously. Luuga says he has always dreamed he would end up in a military uniform, like his father. His decision will be greatly affected by whether or not the NFL comes calling. "For sure, I want to go to the league. If not, that will probably be the next option for me. I'm just taking it one day at a time, and we'll see at the end of the season."
Courtesy of UC Davis Athletics. Photo: Wayne Tilcock.
Luuga says his upbringing equipped him to adapt to change. "You run into a lot of people and different cultures, so it's made me into a person that can adjust on the fly and be comfortable in any situation." This is an important trait for a college athlete, as the rigors of travel, academics, and a diverse schedule are things that affect every player.
As far as how his upbringing has helped him out on the field, he gives credit to his dad. "My dad was tough on me growing up and he taught me how to be tough. There's times where things are hard and you have a choice of whether you're going to be tough or not," Luuga said. "So definitely with my dad being a soldier, the pride that comes with that has taught me a lot as well. He's helped me in my game to weather storms and battle emotional pain, physical pain, whatever pain I may be feeling."
Luuga is described as a quiet leader on the UC Davis squad. He says he just leads through action. "Definitely my actions, how I carry myself on the team is how my dad has raised me and I try to symbolize that."
As far as this season goes, Luuga is just focused on doing whatever it takes to win. "With this being my last year, I personally just want to win. If that means I have to run for 1,000 yards and rush for 14 touchdown then I'll try to do that but I'll take it one game at a time and whatever happens, happens."
The rest of his team has a similar mentality, so Luuga hopes he can help make his senior year a memorable one. "We definitely want to fill our stadium and bring Aggie pride back. We want to change the program and make this year a good year."