Former Trinity Trojan back on the field and leading Sam Houston State

Posted Thursday, Oct. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Eric Fieilo, a former Euless Trinity Trojan, is making the most of his senior season as a linebacker for Sam Houston State.

Through the Bearkats’ first five games, he is second on the team with 35 total tackles, 15 solo and 2.5 for loss. In Sam Houston State’s lone loss, to No. 9 Texas A&M, Fieilo intercepted reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

But Fieilo isn’t wrapped up in his numbers. He is overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude each time he can run out onto the field.

Fieilo suffered a neck injury in his team’s first game of the 2012 season. At first, as he lay on the field, Fieilo thought he was paralyzed.

“The crowd just went quiet, and I was out there for about 10 minutes, motionless,” he said. “I was scared for about five seconds. I was moving my head, but they were telling me to move my hands or my feet, and I couldn’t. But I knew I was in God’s hands. I said a short prayer, ‘God, please help me.’ After that, the motion started coming back, first in my fingers and then like a domino effect to the rest of my body.”

Doctors used bone from Fieilo’s hip to replace a slipped disc in his vertebral column. Fieilo knew he would be able to get back on the football field, but he also knew it would take a lot of work.

“The rehab process was all right. The hardest thing was going to practice every day and having to watch the guys,” Fieilo said. “It made me feel bad, because I couldn’t do anything to help my team. It was more emotional for me to put my helmet back on for that first practice back than for the first game this year. Going out to practice, I felt like I was back to being a part of this team.”

Last week, Fieilo was nominated for the Discover Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award after helping lead the Bearkats to a win against Eastern Washington.

Two other former Trinity Trojans and Sam Houston State teammates helped Fieilo through recovery and back into his helmet and pads — offensive lineman Richard Lolohea and defensive tackle Sione Latu, both redshirt freshmen.

“They are my little cousins,” said Fieilo, who also received encouragement from Steve Lineweaver, his coach at Trinity. “It’s been a blessing to play with them and have them around. They played a big part in me coming back, especially Sione.”

The Bearkats made a run to the national championship before losing to North Dakota State in the title game for a second straight year. Fieilo hopes he can help his team push through for a championship win this season.

“The bar is always set high down here,” he said. “We are going to do our best and play every game like it is our last. Like it is our Super Bowl.”

Games of the week

No. 25 Maryland at No. 8 Florida State (11 a.m. Saturday, ESPN): Maryland’s home shutout of West Virginia two weeks ago looks a lot better after the Mountaineers turned around and knocked off a ranked Oklahoma State team last Saturday. Now, the Terrapins (4-0) will play their first ACC game at Florida State (4-0, 2-0 ACC). This one looks much more interesting after Maryland jumped into the rankings and the Seminoles struggled at times at Boston College last weekend.

No. 6 Georgia at Tennessee (2:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS): After losing to No. 3 Clemson on the road to start its season, Georgia (3-1, 2-0 SEC) has bounced back to win three straight, including games against South Carolina and LSU, both in the Top 10 at the time. Tennessee is used to playing top-tier teams as well, but without the success. The Volunteers (3-2, 0-1 SEC) have lost to No. 2 Oregon and No. 19 Florida. Georgia could be without top running back Todd Gurley. The Bulldogs still have talented senior quarterback Aaron Murray, but Tennessee could hang in the game at home.

No. 22 Arizona State at Notre Dame (6:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC): Notre Dame lost a huge home game last week to Oklahoma and dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Those Sooners will now be rooting for the Irish (3-2) to beat the Sun Devils (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington for a schedule-strength boost. Arizona State has a lot to prove still. Its best win came in a controversial finish against No. 20 Wisconsin, and the Sun Devils couldn’t compete with Stanford for much of the game. The Irish also need a win to avoid a 3-3 start after playing for the national championship last season.

No. 4 Ohio State at No. 16 Northwestern (7 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/8): Sure, Northwestern (4-0) hasn’t played tough competition (Cal, Syracuse, Western Michigan and Maine), but the Wildcats get to open up conference play at home against a top-ranked team in the Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0 Big 10), who are coming off a big home win against Wisconsin. The Buckeyes need a big win, however. Ohio State didn’t move back up in the polls after beating the Badgers, and the next ranked opponent for the Buckeyes is Michigan on Nov. 30.

No. 15 Washington at No. 5 Stanford (9:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN): You will have to stay up late to watch this west-coast matchup, but the Huskies (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) and Cardinal (4-0, 2-0) should make for a great late-night football finale. Stanford is averaging just more than 40 points a game. Washington is nearly at 40 points a game as well. This should be a fun game that either solidifies the Cardinal’s place in the Top 5 or boosts the Huskies into the Top 10.

Numbers

5 Straight games with 350 yards passing or more for Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion. While QB names like Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Aaron Murray and even Jameis Winston are popular this season, Mannion leads the nation in passing touchdowns (21) and yards (2,018). He threw for 414 yards and a school record six touchdowns last week in a 44-17 win against Colorado.

0 Points scored by Ole Miss against Alabama last week. Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace had been quoted saying his wide receivers were better than Texas A&M’s (the Aggies scored 42 points against the Crimson Tide), and that “yeah, I think we can put points on them,” proving that you shouldn’t taunt No. 1.

Quotable

“Yeah, I'm excited for them to challenge us, our manhood again, and for them to bring the same physicality that they always do.” – Washington Huskies senior defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha said to the Washington athletic department writer about playing Stanford

“It certainly helps to have the kind of exposure there.” – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly on if he expects any recruiting bump from playing this week’s game against Arizona State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

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