BATON ROUGE, La. – At his national signing day press conference, LSU coach Les Miles ran down a list of names on a sheet of paper, rattling off details about each of the Tigers’ signees. But when he got to the new defensive tackle from San Antonio, Miles grinned and had to pause.
“I better call him Trey L. this minute,” Miles chuckled while struggling to pronounce Trey Lealaimatafao's last name. “It will take me several years to get to that. And I want you to know something, he’s a wonderful man and I pray that he’ll be forgiving my inability.”
Miles predicted it would probably take “a couple years” before he clears that verbal obstacle, adding that his struggles will provide reporters with fodder “to throw at me just about any point in time that you need to.”
I can’t make any guarantees, but I’d imagine the kid will cut Miles some slack. Sure, questions and jokes about your name might get annoying from time to time, but you definitely get used to it. Continuing to get angry about it won’t do any good and would only mean you’d walk around in an irritable state most of the time.
Mr. L. seems to share that perspective. Just this week, he tweeted instructions on how to pronounce it for those who understandably need some assistance.
Instructions to say my last name Lay-Ah-Lah-EE-mata-fow #simple
— TreyLay (@TreyL55) June 17, 2014
Anyway, once he becomes a legit LSU letterman, Lealaimatafao will tie for the longest last name in Tigers football history. I know because I looked it up myself.
These are the things you do when you’re a bored college football writer during the summer months. You get a wild hair and comb through the list of lettermen in the media guide, checking to see if the new signee actually has the longest name among the six pages and hundreds of lettermen listed from more than 120 years of Tigers football.
In case you were wondering -- and I know you were -- Lealaimatafao’s 13-letter last name ties with 1939 letterman W.H. Froechtenicht for the top spot on this important list. They edge former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger (12 letters), among others, by a single character.
Among some of the notable long names on the list: Ricky Jean-Francois (should hyphenated names count?) and All-SEC honorees Robbie Hucklebridge and Godfrey Zaunbrecher.
Ideally, Lealaimatafao will perform well enough at LSU that he eventually becomes a household name, not one that gives announcers nightmares.
At the very same introductory press conference, Miles compared him to a former Tiger who earned such “household name” distinction among LSU fans a few years back.
“What he would remind you of is Drake Nevis,” said Miles, referring to the Tigers’ former All-SEC defensive lineman. “He’s maybe a little taller, a little wider, maybe a little faster, but he has a very high motor and real acceleration on the field.”
For now, Lealaimatafao’s claim to fame will remain his difficult-to-pronounce last name, but that could change soon enough. If Miles’ comparison holds water, the transition might just occur sooner rather than later.