OSU football: Sione Asi's journey brings unique perspective to Cowboys
STILLWATER — From his playing style to his life journey, little about Oklahoma State’s Sione Asi fits what you’d consider typical for a college football player.
A 6-foot-1, 310-pound redshirt junior defensive tackle, Asi was described by one teammate as a “bowling ball” in the trenches.
The 24-year-old Polynesian from Reno, Nevada, came to OSU from Snow College in Utah, after serving a two-year Mormon mission in British Columbia, Canada.
He wasn’t being heavily recruited at his junior-college, but he has become a key reserve on the defensive line for a sixth-ranked Oklahoma State team that hosts No. 17 Iowa State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
“My mindset was, whoever offers me first, I was ready to commit,” Asi said.
Oklahoma State defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements and player development specialist Beni Tonga — also of Polynesian descent — came across Asi and paved his path to Stillwater.
Asi suffered a torn MCL that required surgery and resulted in him missing most of last season, but he came back from the injury strong.
“He’s a bowling ball,” offensive lineman Josh Sills said of Asi. “He’s hard to move. He’s one of the stronger guys on our team. He’s not the tallest, so he automatically has leverage against you. He’s got good hands and it’s already hard enough to move him off the ball.”
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While he continues to develop on the field, he’s growing up off the field, too, after getting married in the offseason.
So far, his wife, Brenda, is taking to life in Stillwater.
“She loves it,” Asi said. “She’s from Oakland, California, so it’s a little different, but she likes it a lot.
“I had been here for about a year not being married and being on my own. Now that I’m married, it’s a lot different. I gotta take things a lot more seriously. It gives me a big perspective to make sure I make the most out of every opportunity that comes.”
Asi met Brenda when they were children, because their fathers were close friends. Even though they lived in different states over 200 miles apart, they would see each other on a regular basis.
“Whenever we’d have family functions, or when they’d pass through Reno, or when we’d go toward Northern California, we’d always connect with them,” Asi said. “So that’s how we met each other, but it didn’t really get serious until after high school. But we were together for five or six years before we got married.”
That meant a lot of time in a long-distance relationship.
Asi went on his mission right after high school, spending two years in Canada.
“That impacted me on a lot of levels,” he said. “Just being able to be independent, not relying on others, but just relying on myself. I learned to adapt to a lot of different environments. I’m not as socially awkward anymore, because I talked to a lot of people up there. It helped me a lot.”
After two years in the mission field and two years at Snow College, Asi is in his second year at OSU, and the Cowboys are glad to have him.
“The culture and the background and the family history of Polynesians is pretty special,” coach Mike Gundy said. “The heritage, the pride and the respect that they bring to themselves and their family every day. They’re a great addition to your team.
“He falls in that category. He’s great to have in our organization.”