Colorado's Samson Kafovalu earned his way back to the team over the summer afetr being arrested in April
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado’s Samson Kafovalu earned his way back to the team over the summer afetr being arrested in April

Thompson honored

CBS Sports on Tuesday recognized Colorado safety Tedric Thompson on its All-America second team.

Thompson led the country in passes defended with 25, and his seven interceptions tied for third nationally.

Thompson is the third Buff to earn All-America recognition, joining linebackers Jimmie Gilbert (Associated Press, third team) and Kenneth Olugbode (Pro Football Focus, second team).

Sweat dripped off the forehead of Samson Kafovalu as he took a swig of Gatorade following a recent practice.

He then began to talk about how fortunate he was to be standing there, in uniform, helping the Colorado Buffaloes prepare for their first bowl game appearance in nine years.

“Overall I’m just blessed to be able to be playing still collegiately,” said Kafovalu, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound senior defensive lineman.

“It’s a phenomenal time for me.”

This is a phenomenal time for all of the Buffs (10-3), who are enjoying a resurgent season after 10 consecutive losing campaigns. Ranked No. 11 by the Associated Press, and No. 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings, the Buffs will take on Oklahoma State (9-3, No. 12 CFP, No. 13 AP) on Dec. 29 in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

For Kafovalu, this season has been a chance to re-write his final chapter as a Buff.

In April, Kafovalu was arrested outside the Sundown Saloon in Boulder. He was heavily intoxicated and was uncooperative with bouncers and officers. He was charged with obstructing a police officer.

Head coach Mike MacIntyre quickly suspended Kafovalu from team activities, and Kafovalu feared he wouldn’t play again.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “I chose to go out that night and make a fool of myself. I really didn’t have my priorities straight and didn’t set the correct goals.”

MacIntyre didn’t give up on Kafovalu, however, when he very easily could have done just that.

It was Kafovalu’s third run-in with the law since coming to Boulder. The other two happened during Kafovalu’s freshman year. He also missed the 2014 season for personal reasons, as he went back to his home in California.

Kafovalu took a plea deal in the latest case, and then had to earn his way back to the team over the summer.

The decision to stick by Kafovalu had more to do with Kafovalu’s future than it did about the 2016 season. MacIntyre wanted to give Kafovalu a chance to make up for the mistake and find success.

“That’s why you coach in college. Period,” MacIntyre said. “Those are life-long changes that really makes it all worthwhile. He’ll forget the defensive calls we have. He’ll remember some of the games of course, but he’ll remember how he overcame a lot of things to succeed. I look at his future wife and his future family – that he’ll be a success with them and be solid. That’s truly a life-long thing to me.”

When MacIntyre was hired at CU in December of 2012 — after Kafovalu’s freshman season — he made a point to get to know each of the players. Kafovalu still remembers meeting his new head coach.

“I felt like for both of us it was a moment where real recognized real,” Kafovalu said. “He kind of weeded out the bad things and some of my experiences I had before. I told him about my life story a little bit, parts of it, and he told me about his. We could really relate.”

Kafovalu said the two shared very personal stories with each other.

“My background is that I have a lot of family that are alcoholics,” he said. “It’s a self-inflicting disease. It’s self-treating as well. I absolutely believe that if you’re not willing to be in it, do it and give 100 percent full into your sobriety to getting back on top of how things roll, it just keeps rolling downhill from having this ‘FOMO’ – fear of missing out on things.”

MacIntyre understood Kafovalu’s battle and continued to support him and help him along the way.

“It’s how you bounce back and that’s what he explained,” Kafovalu said.

Not many players have bounced back the way Kafovalu has this season. He’s been one of the best players on a stout CU defense all season.

“Almost like a huge tree trunk that they can’t even move,” MacIntyre said. “It’s really helped us. He’s played really well and it’s been fun to watch him play.”

It’s been more fun to watch Kafovalu persevere, be a valuable member of the team and continue on the path to graduation.

“It’s been, I guess, joy in my heart and his heart and his family,” MacIntyre said. “He’s played really well, he’s doing excellent in school and it’s just been a lot of fun to watch him grow up. It’s been really neat.”

For Kafovalu, it’s been rewarding to close his CU career in the right way.

“I’m just very joyous in the moment, in the time and in the experience I’m having,” he said. “It’s a blessing.”

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