Taki Taimani is an Effective Middle Manager for the Huskies

The University of Washington tackle plugs up the D-line and helps expand the Polynesian population on the roster.

Sam Taimani turns up in the middle of everything.

On the University of Washington defensive line, deep inside the trenches, tossing opponents around.

In the concentrated effort to bring large individuals to the Huskies who have rhythmic, multi-syllable names and happen to be exceptional players.

Hey, this guy even prefers that you call him by his middle name, Taki.

Taimani, a 6-foot-2, 335-pound sophomore defensive tackle from Salt Lake City, shares this multitude of responsibilities with Tuli Letuligasenoa, a 6-2, 305-pounder from Concord, California.

They're the Twins.

They met at the Polynesian Bowl, a high school all-star game in Hawaii that provides players with these particular international ancestries a chance to shine, and they've remained close ever since. 

They play side by side.

Or one in front of the other.

They think and compete a lot alike.

They're dedicated to further enhancing the Samoan and Hawaiian football presence on the Husky roster that recently has accelerated in numbers and brought positive results.

"We talked about coming and changing the culture up here and creating a pipeline for Polynesians," Taimani said. 

Twenty-one players with Pacific ancestry currently fill out uniforms for the Huskies, led by names such as Taimani, Letuligasenoa, Tuitele, Tuputala, Nacua, Bainivalu and Ale, plus the one that seems to really resonate across the Husky Stadium public-address system these days, Tupuola-Fetui, first name Zion.

Taimani, a good-natured guy who speaks about his closeness to the Utah-based grandparents who raised him, has played in place of Letuligasenoa for much of the first three games held so far while the latter presumably was injured. He has 9 tackles, including a half a tackle for loss. He takes up space that helps free other players ... such as Tupuola-Fetui. 

When both are available, Taimani and Letuligasenoa form a huge and formidable Husky front defensive wall. They played together for the first time this season on a pair of fourth-down situations against Utah. They came up with an impressive fourth-and-1 stop midway through the third quarter that helped produce a 24-21 comeback victory over the Utes.

"Tuli and Taki, they're connected at the hip," Ikaika Malloe, the UW defensive-line coach, said this past spring. "Different upbringing, met from different states, common bond. Both feed off each other. If one's down, both are down. If one's up, they're both up."

"I love the chemistry between those two guys — it's like having the right hockey shift go in at the right time."

Taimani, originally a promising offensive lineman who picked the Huskies over Alabama, Notre Dame and a host of other high-profile schools, was especially happy to see his friend return to the field against the Utes.

"It felt good to have him back," he said of Letuligasenoa. "I'm excited to be balling with him and all the young guys."

While his given name is Sam, Taimani more often answers to Taki, a nickname placed on him by his grandfather. Sam liked it so much he legally changed his middle name to it while in high school. 

While the Huskies always have heavily recruited Hawaii — who could forget Siupeli Malamala or even Ikaika Malloe for that matter — Taimani is a big part of the UW shift to relying on more and more Polynesian players, something schools such as BYU and Utah have embraced for some time. 

There were only a few of these guys on hand when he first joined the UW program in 2018. There should be an extraordinary amount by the time he leaves. He's an effective middle man.

"It's amazing we've started that trend here," Taimani said. "I'm kind of happy to be part of that beginning."

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