The name Sunia “Junior” Filikitonga is well-known to Euless Trinity football fans.
Along with being a 2013 inductee into the HEB Sports Hall of Fame, he is also the father of Trojans standout defensive end Izaih Filikitonga.
“It’s an incredible experience, what my dad has taught me,” the younger Filikitonga said. “The most important advice he ever gave me is to practice like it’s the game.”
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Junior was a member of the 1992 Trojans state finalists football team, the program’s first of five in their history, along with 2005, 2007, 2009-10 (state championships in 2005, 2007 and 2009). He went on to success at Tyler Junior College, Abilene Christian and was signed as a free agent by the Dallas Cowboys in 1998.
But one thing he could not do, which his son is hoping to do, is recover from a major injury to continue his star career. A knee injury brought Junior’s career to an end, but Izaiah has other plans after two surgeries on an injured foot.
“Honestly, it does push me to get the most out of every play,” Izaih said of his dad’s injury.
Izaih injured his foot in the fourth game of his junior season. He had surgery. He re-injured it in spring ball and had surgery again in May.
Seeing his son struggling, Junior came to his side. Realizing the changes in rehabilitation and surgery since he played, he offered encouragement.
“My dad told me I had to push hard,” Izaih said. “It felt good. I felt safe. It was a confidence-boost.”
Izaih also realizes he is himself a family role model. He has a younger brother who also plays on the defensive line on his junior high team.
“My little brother posts on social media, ‘That’s my big brother,’” Izaih said. “He really gets excited watching me play.”
Izaih’s dad is supportive of us all, and he’s a good guy to listen to because he’s been there and done that.
Trinity head coach Chris Jensen on Sunia “Junior” Filikitonga
Missing most of last season was also hard on Izaih because he watched as the Trojans suffered a second consecutive bi-district exit in the playoffs. Now, as a senior in his third varsity season, he understands this is his last chance to help the Trojans advance deep in the playoffs.
“That just makes me want to do more, get better, help our team become even stronger as a family and leave our own mark,” he said.
Among those who believe Izaih will have a strong senior season are the folks at Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine. They have named him among the top 30 high school defensive linemen in the state and have the Trojans battling another perennial power, Southlake Carroll, for the District 5-6A championship.
“I’m humbled by it, but I’m using it as motivation to get better,” he said.
How much Izaih will play before the Trojans open district play Sept. 29 at Lewisville is uncertain. However, Trinity head coach Chris Jensen is expecting him to be a key factor as they chase a league title.
“The key word is he listens,” Jensen said. “He takes it to heart and he trusts.”
And Jensen says one person Izaih should definitely trust is his father.
“His dad is a real positive role model. He’s great for him,” Jensen said. “Izaih’s dad is supportive of us all, and he’s a good guy to listen to because he’s been there and done that.”
Izaih wants to play in college, but he understands circumstances have forced him to wait before committing.
“I’m going to wait until after my senior season. I’m keeping my options open,” he said.
Of course, a good senior season will likely lead to more opportunities. Jensen has confidence Izaih has plenty of playing days ahead following his time at Trinity.
“The sky’s the limit. He’s still growing,” Jensen said. “Whatever his potential is, he’ll reach it.”