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PSU pals make an odd couple

A California country boy and a South Pacific native have joined Portland State’s football team — and bonded. “We have way different backgrounds, and don’t have much in common, but our personalities really go together,” John Shackford says. Coach Jerry Glanville expects that defensive ends Shackford and Joseph Ma’aseia will be impact players. Shackford grew up near Napa, Calif., playing football, riding dirt bikes, wakeboarding and hunting. Ma’aseia, born and raised in American Samoa, came to the states to play football and get his education; his hobbies are weight lifting and basketball, but he wants to go with Shackford to Mount Hood to try snowboarding. “He’s a cool guy, no different than the country boys I was with at Butte (College in Oroville, Calif.),” Ma’aseia says. “Then again, I’m cool with everybody. My motto is, ‘If you’re cool with me, I’m cool with you.’ ” They met in the Sacramento airport on their way to PSU recruiting visits, Shackford from Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College and Ma’aseia from Butte. Here, each of them had lunch with Glanville, who thinks highly of them. “Really, these two are not children. These are men,” Glanville says of the 6-4, 265-pound Shackford and 6-5, 280-pound Ma’aseia, both 23. “They understand things. They don’t like football — they love football. It’s their passion. These two want to live it. “They’re tough, they run very well. We’re very fortunate to get these two, really. They could change who we are and what we are.” Whoa. In August, fellow JC Jermaine Jacobs, a 6-2, 285 nose tackle, will join them on the Viks’ three-man defensive line. “He’s not a child. He’s a man,” Glanville says of Jacobs, from Mendocino College and the MVP of the Bay Valley Conference last season. Shackford once played receiver, but he bulked up and moved positions. He has dealt with a persistent knee problem, a subluxed patella, where his knee cap pops out. It happened in the second week of spring drills, but Shackford expected to be back at practice Monday as the Viks prepare for their spring game May 10 at PGE Park. “It didn’t tear anything, it’s just swollen,” he says. Shackford’s father is in real estate and his mother is an officer with the California Highway Patrol. “It got me out of some trouble as a kid growing up,” he says, chuckling. New Mexico State, Sacramento State and Western Illinois also made scholarship offers, but Shackford visited PSU and liked Glanville and the coaches. Even though, as would be the case with many of the Vikings, Shackford had not heard of Glanville. “My dad knew him. I Googled his name and read about him,” Shackford says. “He was down to earth, fun to be with, and that was the biggest thing for me. It seemed like it would be an enjoyable experience playing for him.” Like Shackford, Ma’aseia had to get used to the Division I speed and size of athletes and work rate. It takes time for JC transfers to adapt, but Ma’aseia has adjusted. “I’m feeling it,” he says. “I like how they keep everything going in practice. Everything’s on point.” Ma’aseia says he played well in Butte’s 3-4 defense, the same scheme PSU uses. “This is my bread and butter,” he says. He chose Portland State over Montana and some smaller schools. One of six siblings, he is the only one to play football. His father, Lagi, died last year and Ma’aseia could not get away from football or pay for his trip back to American Samoa for the funeral. His mother, Luisa, moved to New Zealand to be with two of her kids. It’s tough being far away from home, but Ma’aseia feels good that he can quickly become part of the PSU program. He already has practiced at end with the starters. “I’m excited and up for the competition,” he says. Lloyd Talakai, a 6-1, 340-pound nose tackle from City College of San Francisco, also has been playing with the No. 1 defense. But Glanville expects Jacobs to be the man in the middle next season. For now, the coach can’t say enough of Shackford and Ma’aseia. “In their hearts, they’re good people,” Glanville says. “There’s absolutely no reason you wouldn’t try to get two guys like this the rest of your life.”