Dev Program: Mewhirter, Muagututia

p1440 Developmental Program: Myles Muagututia, Travis Mewhirter


It is nearly invariably the first descriptor anyone uses when speaking of Myles Muagututia. The way he plays? Smooth. The way he digs balls? Smooth. The way he sides out, with that heavy arm and slippery wrist of his? Smooth.

And it is for that very reason that, when I first met Myles, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d like him. Losing is one thing. Losing to a guy – and, oh, did I lose to Myles plenty – who never looked as if he were trying to beat you, as if the sweat on his brow wasn’t from working hard to dig everything you sent his way but rather from the heat alone, as if it didn’t really matter to him if he won or lost the match, is maddening.

And then you talk to him, and his cadence, his way of carrying himself, his demeanor, is just as smooth as his playing style – free of any negative emotion, of any tangibly strenuous effort, of anything that would make it seem as if he is attempting to impress anyone.

It’s just Myles.

One could have 1,000 conversations with Myles Muagututia and hardly learn anything about him beyond the obvious facts that he’s impossibly polite, almost always wear a soft grin, and seems slightly uncomfortable accepting compliments. He’s quiet, though when he speaks, it is usually to flip the conversation back on you, learning about you, curious about you – your passions, your background, your family. In an age of self-promotion and exaggeration of one’s own feats, it takes a great deal of prodding to learn that, on most any beach Muagututia steps on, he is the most accomplished one on it.

He will not mention that, in 2010, he won a National Championship with Stanford’s volleyball team. Nor will he mention that, during the fall that preceded that title, he played safety for Jim Harbaugh and the Cardinal football team, who wore No. 47 and was on the roster as Stanford upset No. 7-ranked Oregon and No. 11 USC in back-to-back November weekends.

He will not mention that, after winning that 2010 National Championship on the volleyball court, Harbaugh asked him to choose, football or volleyball, because being a two-sport athlete at the most prestigious university in the country can be a bit demanding. Myles chose football, and he won’t mention, either, that his group of friends in Palo Alto included men such as Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart, Doug Baldwin and Zach Ertz, that he would defend passes from Matt Barkely and Nick Foles and slap around Virginia Tech in the 2010 Orange Bowl that sealed up Stanford’s first bowl win in the school’s history.

No, don’t expect Myles to mention any of that for, you see, it’s his humility, the quiet confidence with which he carries himself, that allows him to be so damn smooth all the time.

Why mention any of those things when he knows he’s done them?

It’s a rare type of modesty where the only logical explanation seems to be genetics, family values passed from one generation to the next. His father, Faauuga, competed in the bobsled in the 1994 Olympics, though in two years of knowing Myles and spending occasional time with his family at tournaments, not a single Muagututia has mentioned it. His brother, Garrett, is a member of the United States National Team, an outside who helped the Americans win gold in the 2014 FIVB World League, though of course he’s keener to ask about you than speak on any of that.

Every Muagututia has that same smoothness, the easy demeanor, the ability to move seamlessly from one crowd to the next, from one athletic feat to the next, without any noticeable effort or strain.

There is strain, of course, and there is effort. A family does not simply produce an Olympian father, a Division I athlete mother, three children who competed at the Division I level and beyond and a host of cousins equally as accomplished, on genetics alone. There is effort in the weight room, at practice, in recovery. All of it goes on behind the scenes, so that when others are there to see, it appears to easy. And when Muagututia wins, as is becoming more and more regular, he takes it not to social media but with that same, knowing smile, and everything just seems so smooth.