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After his first practice with the Seahawks, Junior Siavii was walking like he needed to sit down before he fell down.
“I tell you, they practice hard here,” said Siavii, who was added to the 53-man roster on Monday after being released over the weekend by the Dallas Cowboys. “We were really going out there.”
He huffed and puffed one more time before adding, “They practice harder here than in Dallas.”
But after plopping his 6-foot-5, 315-pound body into an overmatched chair just outside the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, the Samoa-born Siavii was all smiles. That’s because the physical toll of one practice was a drop of sweat in the bucket compared to the emotional exhaustion and soul searching he experienced after having microfracture surgery on his right knee in 2005.
“When I hurt my knee, to be honest, I thought I was done,” he said. “I kind of lost my faith.”
That’s when former Chiefs teammate Ronnie Cruz intervened. Cruz, a running back, also was coming off a knee surgery.
“I’ve never seen somebody who had so much faith when they’re hurt,” Siavii said. “He was starting at the time and then he buckled his knee. We hung out a couple times, and the only thing I heard from him was just the faith he had.
“I woke up the next morning and thought about giving it a go. It was kind of like a sign that God was telling me, ‘The only reason you’re not playing anymore is because you chose to.’ ”
That’s when Siavii decided he would chose to play again. The Cowboys gave him that chance in 2008, but he didn’t stick after spending the offseason and training camp in Dallas. Last season, when given another chance, he played in all 16 games for the Cowboys.
“When I came back and started practicing with the Cowboys, I knew I could play in the league,” he said.
How is it that a man his size goes by Junior? It’s a given, because his given name is Saousoalii Poe Siavii, Jr.
Born and raised in Pago Pago American Samoa, Siavii (SEE-uh-vee-ee) came to the United States in 1997 and lived a nomadic life in Salt Lake City until he was talked into giving the sport of football a try. That led to him ending up at Dixie State Junior College in St. George, Utah; then Butte Community College near Chico, Calif.; and finally the University of Oregon for two years.
That stint with the Ducks led to Siavii being selected in the second round of the NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2004. Then came the knee problems that led to the microfracture surgery, which left Siavii spiritually bankrupt.
“When my knee went, I blamed God,” Siavii said. “But I found God after a year of agony with the knee and doubting myself. When I found Him again, I found out that the knee wasn’t really anything. Everything that happens in the world has nothing to do with God punishing anybody. It’s all our fault.
“So for me, instead of blaming him for what happened, it was be a man. Stand back up. Go out there. Give it another shot. Stop whining. Stop complaining. Just go out there, give it your best and see if they like you or not. Sell what you’ve got and see if anybody likes it. If nobody likes it, at least you gave it your all.”
The Seahawks liked what he was selling, which was a true nose tackle who also has some athletic ability. The club released Kevin Vickerson, a 333-pounder, to add Siavii.
“Vick was a big, strong man; he did some good things for us,” Schneider said. “But in terms of pure players, they’re both strong point-of-attack players. They’re both big men.”
Siavii also packs a bit of a nasty streak. Asked during an interview with Cowboys.com what he liked about playing nose tackle, he offered, “I like being close to the ball. I get to hit that dude quick.”
But in the same interview, he also flashed his softer side, admitting that he watches the occasional kids’ movie. “I like the ‘Kung Fu Panda’ movie,” he said. “I’m a big dude but I’m a kid at heart.”
So here Siavii is – a 31-year-old kid at heart – trying to continue his career in the Pacific Northwest, where it first blossomed at Oregon.
“I’m ready to do whatever they tell me to do,” he said. “It’s kind of like a family team. Everybody is kind of helping everybody else out. It’s kind of like Oregon. Everybody loves everybody. When we’re on the field, everybody is trying to push each other. Everybody is playing hard.
“It’s a good thing.”