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July 30, 2013

Polo killed in a car accident

College is supposed to be about not just getting an education, but learning life lessons and how to face adversity.

Those lessons aren't supposed to be learned this way.

For the second time in less than two full years, the Texas A&M football team has lost one of its own. First, Joseph Villavisencio in December 2011, and now Polo Manukiainiu, who was killed Monday.

In both cases, a car wreck claimed their lives. In both cases, two young men full of promise, with great lives in front of them, were gone in an instant.

It's not supposed to work like this.

Neither Joey V. or Polo were what you would call star football players. Villavisencio was at the end of a career that included a single start; Polo was coming off a redshirt season and was trying to crack his way into the rotation at either defensive tackle or defensive end. It may have taken him another year to do it.

Now, we'll never know.

One thing we do know, however: this is the stuff that matters. Family, friends, love and life. For athletes at Texas A&M and their fans, reminders of this lesson have come in jarring, painful ways -- Polo, Joey V., Tobi Oyedeji, Brandon Fails, and the 12 young men and women killed on Nov. 18, 1999.

All of them were enjoying what should have been the best times of their lives. The world was theirs for the taking, and they had what was needed to take it.

And then they were gone.

Success in the business world, just like on the football field or the basketball court, is fleeting. When it's all said and done, very few people are going to give a damn about who partied where and when; they're going to remember how you were as a person and what you brought to the world and people around you.

Polo, like Joey V. before him, was a great guy with a big personality who loved his teammates -- and they loved him. It didn't matter if he was running with the first team this spring or redshirting last fall, Polo always gave you a sense he was happy to be where he was and who he was with -- and he was glad to see you, too.

Polo's moment on the football field hadn't come yet, but many of his moments will be imprinted on the minds of his teammates today and for a long time to come. They'll see him as a guy who loved football, loved life and serves an example of the things that really are important in this world.

This morning, I got a text from a player who I got a shot of goofing around with Polo last fall. At the time, he was kind of mortified, because was afraid the coaches would see it and think he wasn't taking things seriously.

"Thank you for taking this," he said. "I'm glad I have it now."

No, thank YOU, Polo Manukainiu. We're glad we had you for a little while.


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