Climbing the charts
Where Sefo Liufau ranks in some of the major passing categories in CU history:
Passing yards: 7,397 (2nd; needs 13 to break record)
Completions: 688 (1st)
Attempts: 1,093 (3rd; needs 122 for record)
Completion %: 62.9 (1st)
TD passes: 49 (2nd; needs 12 for record)
Passing yards: 3,200 in 2014 (1st)
Completions: 325 in 2014 (1st)
Attempts: 498 in 2014 (1st)
TD passes: 28 in 2014 (1st)
Sefo Liufau stands up, slings his backpack over his shoulder and casually walks down the hallway.
There's nothing strange about his gait, nothing that hints at the fact that Colorado's senior quarterback still has months of rehabilitation ahead of him.
Three months after suffering a Lisfranc injury to his left foot, however, Liufau has come to terms with the reality that he can't always will his body to perform.
"Mentally, I'm ready to go, but the foot has other plans depending on the day," Liufau said. "I basically just have to be patient, but also have a really good attitude, because there will be ups and downs throughout this whole process."
Liufau recently sat down with BuffZone.com and opened up about his injury, his unsure future as CU's quarterback, the Buffs' pursuit of his potential replacement and his ability over the years to cover up his pain with a smile.
Born in Tacoma, Wash., Liufau said that through his father's military background and his proud Samoan heritage, he learned to avoid making excuses.
"Nobody really wants to hear your excuses," he said. "You either get the job done or you don't."
His no-excuses attitude is, in part, a way to honor his parents and Samoan heritage, two things he plays for every time he steps on the field. He also plays for his siblings, 18-year-old brother Saia and 16-year-old sister Malia. Both have special needs, making Liufau much more grateful for all that he has.
"I love those two," Liufau said. "As much as I get frustrated with them, I wouldn't trade them for any other siblings in the world. They're special to me."
While Liufau views Saia and Malia as "normal" siblings, their disabilities make anything he's going through seem minor. Nevertheless, Liufau hasn't had the smoothest ride through college.
The low point
The physical punishment Liufau took this past season was well-documented. Before his season-ending foot injury, he separated the AC joint in his right shoulder and got his wrist banged up, too.
The worst injury he's ever had, however, didn't even cause him to miss a game. Before his senior year at Tacoma's Bellarmine Prep, Liufau began experiencing shooting pain in his back and leg.
"I couldn't sleep, I couldn't bend over, and sometimes I would stand up and get stuck halfway through," he said.
Doctors couldn't figure out why he was hurting, and he played through his senior football and basketball seasons. He then played his freshman season at CU, throwing for 1,779 yards and 12 touchdowns while battling pain.
"It affected all phases of my life and was definitely by far the worst thing ever," he said.
The injury ruined his sleep pattern, soured his mood to the point that he nearly lost his girlfriend and affected his performance in the classroom. It wasn't until after spring football in 2014 that doctors finally discovered he had a protruding disc in his back that was causing nerve damage.
He underwent a microdiscectomy to shave off part of the disc and relieve his pain. He's been a different person and athlete since.
"Life is a lot better," he said.
While his back is no longer much of an issue, Liufau's right shoulder became a big issue last season. He was injured during CU's 27-24 win against Colorado State. He never missed a play, and in fact threw a 65-yard touchdown pass on his next throw. Publicly he always said he felt fine. He now admits he wasn't.
"I'm never really honest with anybody in terms of how I'm actually feeling," he said. "When you're in the position I'm in, I don't want people to worry about me.
"I've kind of opened up to the trainers a little bit more since my (foot) injury. But for the most part, I'm always fine. I'll get through it."
Liufau said he had a lot of "shocking" pain in his shoulder, and he got through it with Aleve and adrenaline. The day after the injury, he could barely lift his arm. He didn't practice the next week, but played in CU's 48-0 win over Nicholls the next week.
After about four or five weeks, Liufau's shoulder got "bearable," but to this day he said he can't sleep on that shoulder.
His competitiveness put him on the field against Nicholls — a game CU probably could have won without a quarterback — and he says now, "Looking back on it, probably the Nicholls game would be the only one I admit I probably should have sat out."
As he played through injuries, there were some on social media who said he was selfish.
"If I wanted for everything to be about me, I'd go play tennis or golf or something that's individual," he said. "It's about the team and trying to get this program back to the top echelon of college football."
Liufau is aware he's not well liked by some people who attack him on social media, but make no mistake about his desire to see CU in a bowl game.
"I really want to win," he said. "I remember freshman year in fall camp, a lot of us, we wanted to quit, because it was a culture shock. It was like, 'Man do we want to do this?' We've come a long way.
"Coach (Mike MacIntyre), he puts so much into this program with the rest of the coaching staff. In my mind, we owe it to them as players to go out there and win some games. I owe it to everyone on this team."
Tangled in a Webb
If Liufau's desire to win is questioned, consider this: After Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb announced this winter that he would play his final year somewhere else, CU was immediately interested. MacIntyre approached Liufau last month and wasn't sure how his captain and quarterback would feel about it.
Liufau has every intention of being healthy and a burning desire to lead his teammates to a bowl, but he also knew Webb could make the Buffs better.
"I said, 'That's great,' " Liufau said. "Coach Mac said, 'Are you sure that's OK?' and I was like, 'Yeah, it's totally fine.' It's not about me. Anything to help the team, by any means."
Liufau has yet to meet Webb, who many have already anointed as the starter, but he's hoping the two can form a good connection. And Liufau isn't conceding anything.
"Competition fuels me," he said. "I think there's more of an inner drive to prove to myself I can get back in time and obviously, I want to compete."
What if he's healthy and loses the job to Webb or another quarterback?
"It'll obviously take some getting used to, and I'll be frustrated, in the sense that I'll feel like I haven't done enough to earn that spot," he said. "But I'll find ways to suppress that frustration to help the team. And, you always have to be ready."
At this point, Liufau is readying himself for anything. His injury is so unpredictable that there's no telling what his future holds.
While he hopes to be healthy by fall, he said, "Who knows? I might not even play next year. There's a very big possibility of that. It's something I have to accept."
Liufau has a redshirt year available, so he could sit out this fall and come back in 2017. That thought hasn't crossed his mind, though.
"My mind has only been on trying to get back for this year," he said.
To this point, Liufau's CU career has been filled with the unexpected. It hasn't been an easy road, but as he sits in a comfy chair in the CU offices, props up his injured foot and looks out the window at the Flatirons rising above Folsom Field, he flashes that smile.
"I can't complain," he said. "I know I've grown a lot as a person here, and I've still got a ways to go.
"Coming here, it's really challenged me. I've learned a lot about myself. This school has given me a lot, and I'm grateful. I've been blessed."
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.