Rugby star finds home at BYU

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    By David Hawks

    He?s big. He?s Fijian. And he?s here to help the BYU rugby team in their quest to win a national championship.

    Sophomore Alipate Tuilivuka, born and raised in Suva, Fiji, has traveled the world and found his place here in Provo amongst fellow students and athletes.

    When Pate (the name he prefers) was asked to come to BYU to play rugby, it didn?t take long for him to reach a decision.

    ?Rugby was always one of my passions,? Pate said. ?I had a chance to come to a better school and play the sport I love. Plus, BYU has a really good team and I figured I could come and contribute.?

    Pate grew up playing rugby, but after two serious injuries, he took a break from the sport he loved and began playing more basketball.

    ?When I was 12, I broke one collarbone and when I turned 13, I broke the other one,? Pate said. ?One collarbone I broke playing rugby on a team, and the other one I broke playing rugby, but I was just messing around with friends.?

    The injuries have not hindered Pate?s ability to play rugby for BYU this year.

    ?I stayed away from rugby for a year and I hit the weights,? Pate said. ?I worked out as hard as I could because in a country where rugby is so dominant, not being able to play really killed me.?

    In Fiji, there is a big emphasis on rugby. According to Pate, the ranking of sports in Fiji is rugby first, volleyball second, then soccer.

    ?The government spends a lot of money on rugby,? Pate said.

    Pate grew up idolizing Michael Jones, a flanker for the New Zealand All Blacks.

    ?Michael Jones was the best international player in the world,? Pate said. He liked Jones because Pate played the same position when he was younger.

    After graduating from high school in Fiji, Pate traveled to BYU-Idaho where he attended school for a year.

    ?It was a big transition for me,? Pate said. ?At first it was hard. I was a small-island boy coming to a bigger city. The weather and everything was different, but I got used to it. I?m just glad the church was around.?

    Following his year of school in Idaho, he then went to Sacramento, Calif., to play rugby for the Super League.

    Following Pate?s rugby career in California, he traveled to Hawaii to be a dancer at the Polynesian Cultural Center. During the time, Pate was in California and Hawaii, preparing for an LDS mission. He was called to serve in the Long Beach, Calif., mission.

    Now, Pate is excited to be a Cougar and play for the No. 4 BYU rugby team.

    ?We have a lot of talent on the team,? Pate said. ?We just have to put it all together.?

    Although Pate has the opportunity to play the sport he loves, he realizes the benefit of coming to a university.

    ?For me it has been a blessing to go to a good school and get a good education,? Pate said. ?Rugby also has a lot to do with it.?

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