Sefo Liufau might as well have been a fifth-year senior sitting there in front of reporters and television cameras Tuesday at the Colorado football program's weekly press conference.
There wasn't a hint of nervousness as he answered questions about taking over as the Buffs' new starting quarterback this week. If he shows this kind of poise on the football field on future Saturdays, the program might have found a man to lead it out of the basement of the Pac-12 Conference.
"Honestly, I don't know if it's actually hit me yet that I'm starting," he said. "I'm just preparing like any other week. Probably the only difference is that I'm getting more reps this week, but other than that, it's another work week.
CU (2-3 overall, 0-3 Pac-12 play) will play host to Charleston Southern (7-0) on Saturday (12:07 p.m., Pac-12 Network). The game is a replacement contest for the Sept. 14 home game against Fresno State that was cancelled because of historic flooding in and around Boulder.
CU is honoring tickets for the Fresno State game at this week's game. If fans with tickets to the Fresno State game are not able to attend this weekend, they can contact the CU ticket office to exchange tickets for seats to another CU home game this season.
Liufau (pronounced Loo-fow) will be the 10th freshman -- and just the sixth true freshman -- to start a game at quarterback for the Buffs when he takes the first snap this week. Tyler Hansen was the last true freshman to start a game for the Buffs at quarterback against Missouri in 2008. The Buffs lost that game 58-0.
The other true freshman starters from CU's past are Craig Ochs (2000), Koy Detmer (1992), Marc Walters (1986) and Randy Essington (1980).
Liufau, like the others on the list, seems uniquely qualified to handle the pressure of the situation because he is mature beyond his years, as coach Mike MacIntyre said Tuesday. Liufau said he didn't watch a lot of college or professional football growing up. He said he preferred to spend time with his family or playing FIFA, a soccer video game.
"It's my getaway," he said. "It's what I do. I'd rather play football than watch football."
Liufau credits his maturity to his parents who raised him in a tight-knit family environment and some of his dad's old army buddies. His dad was stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs for a time in the late 1980s. Liufau also has a younger brother and sister who have autism, and Liufau has always put spending time with them above the concerns or desires of an average teenager.
"His mentality is all about teammates and the people around him," his father, Joe, a native of American Samoa told the Daily Camera in the spring. "And it's also about his brother and sister that have autism. When they're happy, he's happy. If the team is happy, then he is happy."
Liufau said he tries to talk to his parents at least once or twice a week and often more. He was asked what advice his dad gave him for his new role with the Buffs.
"This week my dad just told me stay humble, stay grounded, watch your film, just get ready to play and you can't take anyone lightly," Liufau said.
Liufau actually made his debut in relief of Connor Wood last week at Arizona State. He led an 80-yard touchdown drive and threw his first college touchdown on the first series he played, but it went downhill from there.
He completed 18 of 26 passes for 169 yards, but he threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone resulting in a safety.
"I don't care if I'm a freshman, coming off the bench, starting," Liufau said. "It doesn't matter. I can't have those turnovers in any game."
Liufau threw for 7,297 yards, 68 touchdowns and 20 interceptions during his high school career in Tacoma, Wash., at Bellarmine Prep. He also ran for more than 600 yards and 18 touchdowns.
He led his team to the state championship game last season but lost. He said he was able to put the loss behind him fairly quickly and he plans to take the same approach, win or lose, with the Buffs.
MacIntyre said it's possible the role of the quarterback in the running game could increase with Liufau playing. He said Liufau has shown an ability in practice to read when to keep the ball on read-option plays.
"That's something he's done real well in practice, being able to see that, feel that, understand that," MacIntyre said. "It's kind of like an option guy sometimes making the pitch at the last second. He's able to do that. So that will relate to him having more carries."
MacIntyre said he has been on teams with true freshmen starting at quarterback in the past. The first time was at Georgia in 1991 where Eric Zeier started as a true freshman. MacIntyre said he doesn't necessarily feel like he needs to treat Liufau any differently than he would a more experienced quarterback such as Wood or Jordan Webb.
"It's a situation where he just needs to keep improving and doing what he's doing and not try to do too much," MacIntyre said. "I don't think he will cause he has the ability to kind of adapt to situations and make some plays."
On the Pac-12 coaches teleconference Tuesday morning, MacIntyre compared Liufau to Andrew Luck, in that his running ability is not the primary part of his game but can be underappreciated at times the way some people are surprised by Luck's athleticism. He was not trying to say Liufau is as good as Luck.