HAMMOND | Morton was scrimmaging Lake Central this summer. The Indians were in a short-yardage situation. So they brought in Gelen Robinson at fullback.
The ball was snapped and the Purdue-bound Robinson soared forward to make a block. For once in his life, he hit a wall that could not be moved. The wall's name is Darius Niuamoa.
The wall is a 6-foot-5, 378-pound junior defensive lineman who was raised in American Samoa, the South Seas Pacific island that in 2010 had 28 players in the National Football League.
"It's a small island where the weather is real hot," Niuamoa said. "The culture has a lot of respect in the family. Seafood is really big there."
How crazy are the males on this island for playing American football? There are 30 high schools there and they all have a football team.
"Every Samoan boys' dream is to play football in America," Niuamoa said. "People look at us and say, 'They're so big.' So they believe football is the perfect sport for us."
After seven years on his native island, Niuamoa moved to San Diego with his mother. His team in another postcard climate lasted a few years. Then, he moved to East Chicago.
Then, before his freshman year, he moved to Hammond.
Morton coach Roy Richards played with several Samoans as a player at Northeast Missouri back in the day. So when the new kid showed up on his doorstep it was pretty simple.
"I connected the dots," Richards said. "When I was in college, they came over as linebackers and left as nose guards. They had their growth spurt in college. Darius has already had his. He's huge.
"And he can't be moved."
Through four games, Niuamoa has 21 tackles. Heading into tonight's battle with Munster, Morton has only given up 17 points in three games, with 10 coming late against Clark when the reserves were in.
With Niuamoa keeping all from running up the middle, defensive ends Diamante Noble (34 tackles, six sacks) and Marneke Evans (27 tackles, two sacks) have been able to clean up from the perimeter.
Illinois, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan have all shown great interest in recruiting Niuamoa, who benches 355 and squats 500-plus.
"The college coaches tell me I bring size and strength to the table, but they also know I'm a smart guy," said Niuamoa, who has picture Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata on his Facebook page. "That is my dream to play college football."
But high school comes first and beating the Mustangs after last year's loss is very important.
"This year it's personal," Niuamoa said. "They beat us last year."
For a young man who grew up on an island and then moved to San Diego, region winters and a much different social situation hasn't taken away his love for the game. It has enhanced it, even if the Govs play in the shadow of a rusting industrial belt.
"I love being a Morton Governor," he said. "That's why I love it here so much."