Junior Aumavae, 26, took his football career from Western Washington University all the way to the New York Jets when he signed with the team in February 2013. The catch? Aumavae never wanted to play football.
“One of my sisters, Helen, actually told me to get out of the house to go play some football,” Aumavae said. “I just liked staying home on the couch, eating chips and cookies in high school. She gave me the influence to go out there and play.”
After just two years of high school football in Palmer, Alaska, Aumavae went on to play nose tackle for Western’s football program through the beginning of his senior year, when the program shut down.
After losing Western’s football program, Aumavae had only good things to say about his time at the university.
“I was very blessed to be a part of it," Aumavae said. "The tradition they had there was winning. The tradition of hard working produces results there.”
Aumavae transferred and played for Minnesota State University - Mankato to finish out his collegiate career, before signing with the Dallas Cowboys. He was later released from the Cowboys at the end of summer training in order to free up roster positions. After a brief period in the Arena and Indoor Football Leagues, he signed with the New York Jets.
Western’s program created lasting friendships, especially with former Western teammate Matt Overton.
“The bond we created while at Western is something I’ll never forget,” Aumavae said.
Overton, who now plays for the Indianapolis Colts, shared Aumavae’s sentiments toward the bond the Western football program created between the teammates.
“Our friendship outside of football remained the same after we both left,” Overton said. “He’s a great, bright personality, and I think that’s why a lot of people gravitate toward him.”
Aumavae spoke highly of the entire Western Athletics organization, as well as Western’s faculty, and the friends he made at school.
“Everything about Western is a positive experience," Aumavae said. "It’s a positive vibe, and a lot of good things have happened for me there.”
Football is not just a game for Aumavae anymore; it’s a career and a way of life. Aumavae said football means opportunity for him.
While the Western football program may not exist, former players like Aumavae still manage to continue their careers, some making it all the way to the National Football League.