The calm after the storm: Shalom Luani’s story

Handling adversity is something most students in college have faced, or will face sometime in their academic careers. For most, it’s just a part of learning and growing up.

For student-athletes, they are under a media microscope when dealing with adversity on and off the field. Some will fall and some will rise. WSU senior nickelback Shalom Luani chose not to back down.

In August, Luani was accused of punching another WSU student in the face in an altercation that happened right outside of Domino’s Pizza on Greek Row. According to The Seattle Times, the Pullman Police Department closed the investigation, but a full case file is available because the case is still open with the Whitman County Prosecutors office.

The case will be released to the public when prosecutors declare a final decision on whether to press charges or not.

It’s been about three months now from when the incident occurred and Luani has been effective on the field, like he never missed any time.

Luani went from safety to nickel positions from the time he returned after missing the season opener against Eastern Washington. WSU outside linebacker coach, Roy Manning, is his new position coach.

Manning played three seasons in the NFL with five different teams, including the Green Bay Packers, the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Manning said Luani is one of WSU’s most consistent guys and brings versatility on the football field.

“He’s playing about four to five different spots,” Manning said. “I mean, throughout the course of this season, even in games we move him around. He doesn’t miss a beat, he knows the defense and plays with his hair on fire, which is really fun to see as a coach.”

Luani has clearly proven to be that on-fire player when performing on the big stage. In his junior year he started all 13 games and earned 2015 All-Pac-12 honorable mention.

Luani was named to the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Watch List and totaled 90 tackles, third on the team, with three tackles-for-loss, and four interceptions.

Luani also had six pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He also earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors after posting 11 tackles and two interceptions in the win against Oregon State in 2015.

Luani’s role on the field is characterized as a leader by example. Manning said you won’t hear a word out of him on the field.

“You see him hit somebody or run to the football, there’s nothing quiet about that,” Manning said. “He’s one of those guys that lead by example. He is a much quieter guy, more of a person of act I’d say.”

The humble grind is nothing new to Luani. He wasn’t handed a scholarship coming out of Faga’itua High School in American Samoa. Luani decided to head over to the Bay Area and attend City College of San Francisco (CCSF) in California to work his way to Pullman.

As a freshman he earned All-California Region I First Team honors after making 49 tackles, seven interceptions and recovered four fumbles.

As a sophomore at CCSF he was named First-Team All-American and California Community College Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named Bay 6 Conference Defensive Player of the Year after making 69 tackles, six tackles-for-loss with four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Looking forward to this season, the past is far behind Luani as he prepares to finish his senior year and play at the next level. Manning said that there is no question that Luani has the ability.

“Barring anything crazy to happen, I would assume he still has a lot of football in left in him,” Manning said.

Manning said he was pleased by the way Luani handled his own adversity and he thinks Luani put it all behind him.

“It was an unfortunate situation and we always feel for our guys when things hit them. It’s all a part of life, it’s adversity,” Manning said. “He’s done a great job staying focused and really having a pretty good year for what we ask him to do and I’m proud of him in that way.”