Life between the football trenches

Kainoa Nunez

Fat Head graphics for WSU Linemen (Graphic by Aubree Eckhardt)

Not many people can be an offensive lineman. Needing to weigh 300 pounds and run faster than the average person is no easy feat, but Weber State University has six offensive linemen that compete day in and day out and for every offensive snap. But why?

It’s not for the recognition, but it’s for the team. Most fans watching their favorite team don’t even know the names of the starting offensive linemen, and for these six guys, that’s okay.

The starter for left tackle is Noah Atagi, a redshirt freshman who replaced Tyler Downs after an injury.

Atagi is a local from Washington Terrace whose dad played for the Wildcats in1990-1993.

“That means a lot to me, being around here my whole life and coming to Weber games on Saturdays was always to fun to go to,” Atagi said. “I’m proud to be playing for a team that means so much to me and my family.”

Atagi signed with Weber State in February 2016 before he went on his LDS Church mission. Since returning, the redshirt freshman has seen action in every game and is Jake Constantine’s blind side tackle.

The blind side tackle is arguably one of the most important positions on the field, in charge of blocking the quarterback’s blind side. Atagi mentioned how constantly you have to prove you’re good enough everyday to be able to be a part of a successful team.

At left guard for the ’Cats, junior Cole McGinnis and sophomore Hyrum Tapusoa start and split snaps equally each game for the Weber State offense.

McGinnis, a Gooding, Idaho native, was recruited and signed in 2014 before his two-year LDS Church Mission in Oklahoma City, OK. After returning from his mission, the 310-pound guard saw action on the defensive side first before transitioning to the offense.

“I didn’t mind the switch because Coach Hill (Jay Hill) always tells us; ‘The way you do one thing is the way you do all things,” McGinnis said. “You got to put in 110 percent of your effort in everything you do.”

Tapusoa, a West Valley City native, was born in Long Beach, CA before moving to Utah and attended Granger High School. Tapusoa signed with Weber State in 2014 before he served a two-year LDS Church mission to Houston, TX.

Tapusoa is a redshirt sophomore for the Wildcats and saw action last year in nine games.

“Offense depends on us a lot, and even though we don’t get the hype, we still have a job to do,” Tapusoa said. “The recognition goes to the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, and it doesn’t bother us that we don’t get the spotlight. It’s better that way.”

Football has taught Tapusoa more than how to block and win. In Hill’s team and one-on-one meetings, he’s learned to be a better person and cultivating perseverance to better himself and the people around him.

In the middle of the trench is junior Ben Bos, the 300-pound center, who’s started in every game since 2017. Bos is a Heber City native and signed with the Wildcats back in 2016 when he took his redshirt freshman year.

“I always feel good about my accomplishments and recognition,” Bos said. “Hard work pays off in the end, and that’s part of life where it’ll affect you down the road.”

Bos has been a part of the Wildcats for three years as a starter and helped running back Josh Davis break records last fall. Bos admitted it’s hard not to receive any credit but knowing Davis success was on the shoulders of the linemen performance is all they need.

Bos was a honorable mention for All-Big Sky honor last fall.

At right guard is junior Ty Whitworth. The political science major earned Academic All Conference the last two years as well as first team All Big Sky last year for his performance on the field.

“It’s really fun, but the whole thing that appeals to me playing offensive line is more of a chess game as you get more advance,” Whitworth said. “You got to play aggressive and violent against a defensive line that has seven players blitzing you all at once.”

Whitworth, a Temecula, CA native continued that he has an amazing support system. His brothers, coaches and family all understand his role for the Wildcats and make it to every game possible.

Xavier Stilson, the only senior, signed with Weber State in 2012 and is the right tackle for the WSU big men.

Stilson is a Layton native and went to serve an LDS Mission, after signing with the Wildcats in 2012, in Brazil.

“Your legs get stepped on, you get twisted up, and have bumps and bruises but you know how your team values you,” Stilson said. “It’s always worth pushing through even though we don’t get a ton of recognition, but we try to do what we can to succeed.”

Stinson continued that family, close friends, coaches and teammates know and understand how hard the line has to play every snap, but as far as for people who just watch the game, they won’t.

Each player developed a chemistry together that makes them a brick wall, and with their talent, these young men represent a vital part of the Weber State football team.

“We’re out here 20 hours a week, plus film studies that they have to put on their own and dealing with other necessities that each player has to deal,” Hill said. “To play at any position is a matter of performing at a high level that can affect the team to be successful.”

Injuries happen, and unfortunately, linemen are exposed to more injuries than any other position because they make contact with another player every play. But for Hill and the Wildcats, the next man up can do the job.

“There’s no need to let everyone know who we are,” Stilson said. “We’re the players that make the plays happen.”