Su'a-Filo working back into shape

Su'a-Filo working back into shape

Published Apr. 10, 2012 10:35 p.m. ET

When Xavier Su'a-Filo returned home from his two-year Mormon mission last December, new UCLA head coach Jim Mora and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm went to visit him at his home in Utah.

When they arrived, there was a feast waiting for them prepared by Su'a-Filo's family. The meal took Klemm back down memory lane.

"I went to the University of Hawaii so they had some Korean chicken and fried rice and all these different things," Klemm said. "It was pretty cool. I hadn't had that in a while."

Which begs the question, who was recruiting whom?

The Su'a-Filo's rolled out the red carpet for the UCLA coaches, while the coaches flew out to Utah to do the same.

Su'a-Filo started every game at left tackle for the Bruins in 2009. He then left for his mission spending time in Alabama as well as Tallahassee, Fla.

Once his Mission was complete, he could've had his choice on where he would continue his career.

The UCLA he left in 2009 wasn't the same place he'd be returning to. Gone was Rick Neuheisel as the Bruins were in the beginning of a changeover.

"He didn't have to come back," Klemm said. "I just wanted to go over there and show him a little bit of love and say 'Hey you're my guy. I want you back. We need you here,' and welcome (him) with open arms."

Su'a-Filo appreciated the visit from the coaches and wanted them to know Westwood was where he wanted to be.

"I always wanted to come back to UCLA," Su'a-Filo said. "But naturally, when coach Neuheisel got fired, I was thinking about other options. Not anywhere specific, but I was thinking if I wasn't able to come back to UCLA, I'd have to be prepared to go somewhere else."

Last week he was back on the Spaulding Field for the first time in two years.

After Day 1, sore best described how he felt. Very sore.

"I'm hurting," he said at the conclusion of last Tuesday's practice.

Frustration soon set in. He couldn't escape the feeling of wanting to pick up where he left off as a freshman All-American selection. He was so disappointed that he went into Mora's office apologetic last week.

"He said, 'coach, I'm so disappointed in myself,'" Mora said. "I said, 'you were gone for two years. We knew that there was going to be some rust. You're getting better.'"

"I'm not in football shape. ... It's been a while," Su'a-Filo said. "But I'm headed in the right direction."

By the end of the week, he was starting to regain his groove, telling Mora "I'm feeling it, coach" during practice last Saturday.

"I was surprised that first day," Klemm said. "I thought we were going to really have to ease him back into it, but I was able to throw him in there at left tackle. We're kind of slim up front but he's been the best performer in our group so that was very pleasing."

By the fall, he should be close to being back to his old self — feasting on defensive linemen.