Montana State University

Mountains and Minds

Siataga's Smile November 27, 2007 by Bill Lamberty • Published 11/27/07

Former Bobcat's helpfulness makes him a local legend

(Photo: Jay Thane)

Brian Weisel will always remember the conversation he had with David Siataga late last fall.

"If you ever need any help, I'm willing," Siataga told Weisel, MSU's former equipment room manager.

"And he was always willing to help out," Weisel said. "He was always happy to help unload bags off the plane (after a football road trip), which is just very unusual. He helped me a lot. I have nothing but good things to say about David."

In a group of over 300 MSU student-athletes who have contributed more than 3,000 voluntary service hours in the Bozeman community last year, Siataga stands out more for how he does things than what he does. Always a favorite of the previous football coaching staff, which recruited the Sacramento product and coached him during his two years in the Bobcat program, the stout former nose tackle similarly found favor with the school's current coaches.

"Your first impression of David is that he always has a smile on his face," said first-year MSU football coach Rob Ash of Siataga, whose elgibility ended after his senior 2006 season. "He has the best disposition of anyone I've ever seen. He's been doing thankless work, but he always appears to be enjoying himself."

Siataga's smile has lit up the Bobcat football program.

"A ray of sunshine," Weisel said about Siataga, who arrived on the MSU campus as a junior college defensive lineman from Sacramento City College in 2005. Siataga is now working in the equipment room as he finishes up his coursework en route to graduating in sociology.

"Your first impression of David is that he always has a smile on his face."
--MSU football coach Rob Ash

"He is an inspiration to everyone," said Siataga's former linemate Aaron Papich, now a senior team captain. "If it was a down day in the locker room and there was not a lot of energy, his smile gives you that. His smile gives you energy. He makes the game fun by seeing how much fun he has."

Almost everyone who has had contact with Siataga has a story.

Former Bobcat football coach Mike Kramer remembers a phone call from the Strand Union Building Food Court on the MSU campus.

"The caller told me that we had a person over in the SUB that had grabbed a washrag during their lunch rush and was cleaning tables," Kramer said last spring. "Just to help out. They couldn't believe it. I knew right away they were talking about David."

Cheerfulness alone fails to explain how Siataga ingrained himself into the culture of Bobcat Athletics and helped make him a fixture on campus in just two short years.

The stories can best be understood by knowing a bit about Siataga's family and his Samoan heritage. His father met his mother at a Samoan dance performance, and Siataga grew up singing and performing Samoan dances.

At 5-11, 270 lbs., Siataga may seem like an unlikely participant in the performing arts, but "he's always singing and dancing around," Papich said. "He's always singing the oldies."

In his grandmother's San Francisco neighborhood where Siataga spent much time as a youngster, "you see shootings, you see drug addicts across the street," he said.

But it was a world he only saw, not experienced, for his parents shepherded him away from those troubles.

"When we were little, my mom and dad raised us not to be like that, all the drug addicts and that. They raised us in church; they raised us to be respectful. That's how the Samoan culture is."

Family is never far from Siataga in any conversation. For instance, his love of Montana's snowy winters relates to a childhood fascination shared with his siblings.

"I love the scenery, the mountains, especially I love the snow," he said. "I'd never seen snow in my life. My brothers, sisters and I used to have snow fights with the ice inside the freezer. We'd ball it up and throw it at each other."

Siataga paid tribute to his family as a player, writing his sisters' names on the taped portion of his right hand before games, and his brothers' names on his left hand. His older sister, Ursula, graduated from UCLA and works as a counselor for at-risk children in the Bay Area and in Southern California. His other siblings also followed the path of education. Siataga, too, aspires to work as a counselor, possibly at a junior college.

Family is the inspiration behind the way Siataga conducts himself around campus, and family guides his hopes for the future.

At MSU, his relentless helpfulness and incessant good cheer have taken on urban legend status. Have you seen the big guy that dances all night at a local club, drinking only water, then helps clear the place out and bus tables at closing time? How about the guy who jumped in to help with some heavy lifting after a large campus social event that he wasn't even attending, just because some people needed help?

"(If) it's got to be done, it doesn't bother me," he said. "People say 'Didn't he play football before, why is he washing tables?' It doesn't matter to me. Some people would get embarrassed over that, but I don't.

"I've been doing that my whole life," Siataga said with a smile that most who know him say comes from his father. "I grew up cleaning the house and stuff. My dad wakes us up at 4:30 every morning, just the guys, to clean the house.

"I like helping out," he said. "It's second nature to me."

(Photo: Jay Thane)