LOS ANGELES -- Xavier Su'a Filo holds to the UCLA Bruins team mantra of not making any game more important than another, so he's trying not to be more excited for Saturday's game against Utah Utes than he was last week against California.
In his mind, the Utes are only the team standing in the way of UCLA as they try to get the season back on track after a 43-17 blowout loss last week.
Still, Su'a-Filo acknowledges, it's going to be a special feeling taking the field against one of the hometown schools he grew up cheering and considered attending. The UCLA starting offensive lineman went to Timpview High in Provo and was a fan of both Brigham Young and Utah. He is one of only two UCLA players from Utah. Walk-on fullback Alek Cusick, from Orem, is the other.
"The special thing about it is that I have a lot of family coming," Su'a-Filo said. "This is the most amount of family that I have that will be coming of any of my games. They are from Utah and I have some friends that play for Utah so a lot of my relatives and close people will be coming to the game so I think that's what is exciting for me."
When Su'a-Filo left on his two-year Mormon mission after the 2009 season, he had no idea he'd get the chance to play against one of his hometown teams upon his return, but Utah's move to the Pac-12 last season made it happen.
He is close friends with Utah tight end Jake Murphy and the two have been exchanging text messages this week "wishing each other good luck" Su'a-Filo said with a grin.
"It's one of my home schools and Utah is always a good program so it's always good to play good competition," he said. "When I found out they were coming in to the Pac, I was excited because I'm from there."
Su'a-Filo, UCLA's top offensive lineman, will be among those charged with the task of trying to slow Utah's Star Lotulelei, another Salt Lake City area native who is one of the top defensive linemen in the country. Su'a-Filo said he attended some camps with Lotulelei during high school but didn't have the chance to go up against him much because they were a couple of years apart. He said he's looking forward to the chance to finally match skills against a player he has heard a lot about over the years.
"He's a playmaker," Su'a-Filo said. "He's explosive and he's very good. There is a reason a lot of the NFL and scouts are looking at him because he's a great player. I know I'm going to have to bring my 'A' game and make sure I'm on top of my game and make sure I play hard because I know he will."