Gridiron lures Tagive to US
WHEN Southern Cross University student Peni Tagive takes up residence in Waco, Texas, next month it will literally be a world away from his mother's village home in Fiji.
But the former NRL winger, who was born and raised in Western Sydney, has his sights on a career in American football - and a degree in exercise physiology.
Of course there are stepping stones to such an illustrious adventure - the first of which was to leave rugby league and move to Lismore, where he lived with his mother's first cousin and blazed a path through eight units of a business degree in preparation for his move to Texas.
Peni was offered an immediate full scholarship to Baylor University after gridiron coaches there witnessed the hulking winger's formidable display in a YouTube film called Peni Tagive Highlights.
The happy result came after two years of soul searching by the player many labelled "the next Lote Tuqiri".
At 18 Peni started in league with the Wests Tigers, and finished with the Roosters after a stint with the Dragons. But for the past two years he has chased an ambition to play the US code.
The first step was gaining 24 university credits before he could transfer to Baylor.
Peni chose Lismore because of his family connection, and he lived with Reijieli and Michael Willemsen, who gave him room and board and looked after all his needs, as he studied non-stop, cramming three semesters into two.
"There was a lot of sleepless nights," he recalled. "A lot of stress."
Peni has already been to Waco - flown there by Baylor Bears' coaching staff.
"In Texas everything is big," he says. "The roads are wide and big. The people there love their barbecue chicken and football is really massive.
"I'm very lucky to have scored a scholarship there."