When LSU senior offensive lineman Hoko Fanaika picks up the guitar, he isn’t always playing alone.
More times than not, the room is filled with his offensive line teammates, freestyling and singing to the melodies of his guitar.
“We love to listen to Hoko play the guitar,” said senior lineman La’el Collins. “We always say we’re going to make a song and we all start writing some things down, and while he’s playing everybody starts saying stuff.”
The offensive line prides itself on the fact that they are the best of friends, trying to do whatever they can together to keep up great chemistry on the field. They don’t tread alone — where there is one, there’s bound to be another.
“This year and last year are the two closest offensive lines I’ve been on,” said senior offensive lineman Evan Washington. “Everybody hangs out. We’re all cool.”
The group’s close bond has translated to on-the-field success. The Tiger rushing attack was ranked in the top 30 in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2013, averaging 202.3 yards per game rushing with 37 rushing touchdowns.
Junior lineman Vadal Alexander said the unit watches film together to try and get better every single day. But it’s not only within the confines of the game that they are close.
The offensive linemen have their own group chat in which they exchange frequent messages asking each other to do things ranging from grabbing some food to freestyling over Fanaika’s melodies.
Fanaika, a California native who is the first player of Tongan heritage in LSU history, is talented at many instruments, but his teammates all agree there’s nothing like his guitar playing.
“Hoko can play,” Alexander said. “Them Tongans know how to play a little guitar, I’ll tell you that right now. I wish I could play the guitar like him. He needs to teach me one day.”
Washington, Fanaika’s former roommate, said he loves Fanaika’s guitar skills, but Washington doesn’t think his own vocal skills are up to par just yet.
“I sing off key,” Washington said. “I know the words to a lot of songs but I can’t sing well.”
Not everything is fun and jokes, however, when the group takes the controls on the Xbox. Alexander said he and his teammates are intensely competitive when it comes to video games.
Washington and Alexander love to duke it out in the video game series NBA 2K, but Washington seems to think no one is quite on his level.
“I say I’m the 2K champ of the O-Line,” Washington said. “I brag about my 2K skills and I’ll put them up against anybody.”
There are a lot of different personalities on the offensive line, and Collins said it’s their differences that bring the most out of each other.
“It really makes you want to always be around these guys,” Collins said. “They can just inspire you and teach you different things.”
Alexander said it’s important for an offensive line to be as close as they are because that’s how they are able to get stronger and better on the field.
No matter the result on Saturday night, the one thing that won’t be questioned is the brotherhood the offensive line shares.
“We have each other’s backs,” Fanaika said. “Whenever something happens, we’ve got each other’s backs.”
You can reach Jack Chascin on Twitter @Chascin_TDR.