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Football Coaching Staff
Joe Salave'a
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line
Coach Info:
Position: Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line
Hometown: Leone, American Samoa
Alma Mater: Arizona, 1997
Experience: 4 Years

Nine-year National Football League veteran Joe Salave’a begins his fifth year on Mike Leach’s Washington State coaching staff, the first three as the defensive line coach and adding the title of Assistant Head Coach prior to the 2015 season.

Since arriving at WSU Salave’a has energized the Cougar defensive line, posting three of the top four season sack totals in the past 10 years, and the most tackles-for-loss since the 1999 season.

Last season the Cougar defense showed vast improvement over the previous year, tallying 102 tackles-for-loss (7.8 pg), eighth in the country and the second-highest total in school history. That included 33 sacks, led by redshirt senior defensive lineman Darryl Paulo and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa, with 7.0 each. They were part of a group of five players that recorded 10-plus TFLs on the season, tied for the most in school history (2002). Paulo and senior Destiny Vaeao were named All-Pac-12 Second Team, while Mata’afa received All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors. Mata’afa also was named a First-Team Freshman All-American by USA Today.

In 2014 WSU registered 29 sacks and 77 tackles-for-loss, both improvements over 2013 totals. In 2013, the defensive line played a huge part in the Cougar defense forcing 30 turnovers, second-most in the Pac-12 Conference. Salave’a saw his young group take another step forward as junior defensive tackle Xavier Cooper posted team-highs in tackles-for-loss (13.5) and sacks (5).

Salave’a guided a young group in 2012 that included only four players who had taken snaps at the Division I level. The youthful line led WSU to its most tackles-for-loss (92) since the 2003 season and most sacks (35) since 2006. Both figures ranked among the nation’s best, finishing eighth in tackles-for-loss and 11th in sacks.

Salave’a spent the 2011 season at Arizona after returning to his alma mater as a defensive line coach on Mike Stoops’ staff in time for December preparations for the 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl.
Salave’a began his coaching career as defensive line coach for Dick Tomey at San Jose State (2008-09). Tomey served as head coach at Arizona when Salave’a played in Tucson.

Salave’a made an immediate impact in his first coaching venture after a noteworthy pro football career. In 2008, he mentored San Jose State Spartans’ tackle Jarron Gilbert, the NCAA leader in tackles for loss and the Chicago Bears’ first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Salave’a was drafted in the fourth round by Tennessee in 1998 and spent five seasons with the Titans, one split year with the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers (2003) and his final three years in the NFL with the Washington Redskins from 2004-06.

He recorded 157 career tackles at Arizona, all as an interior lineman, with 43.5 tackles for loss and 21.5 sacks. He led the team in sacks and tackles for loss in both 1996 and 1997, and in fumbles caused in 1994 and 1996.

Salave’a lettered at Arizona as a defense tackle from 1994-97, serving as team captain in 1996. He earned honorable mention All-Pacific-10 Conference honors in 1995, second-team honors in 1996 and was a first-team selection in 1997.

Salave’a was recruited by Tomey in 1993 and became one of the mainstays of the Arizona defenses of the mid-1990s at defensive tackle. He was selected team captain and named the team’s Most Valuable Player for the 1996 season. Salave’a has the unique distinction of being invited to the East-West Shrine and Hula Bowl All-Star Games after both his third and fourth seasons because he was awarded an additional year of playing eligibility.

His Arizona career was an academic success story as well, capped by NCAA eligibility restoration after he graduated within four years. He enrolled at UA in 1993-94, but was ineligible for football as a partial qualifier, losing the year of eligibility. After his senior year in 1996-97, the NCAA changed its rules in spring 1997, and as a May graduate he was afforded a fourth year of playing eligibility (fifth year in residence), one of the first such student-athletes to benefit under the new rule.

A native of Leone, American Samoa, Salave’a has been one of the territory’s foremost football ambassadors promoting the game among Samoan youth, including founding a foundation to help introduce the game and strengthen its appeal.

His NFL career spanned 100 games, 28 as a starter, where he totaled 82 tackles, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.. He was the 107th overall draft selection and a member of the Titans’ Super Bowl XXXIV team that lost to St. Louis, 23-16.

He founded the Joe Salave’a Foundation in 2001. The foundation specializes in free football clinics for youngsters in American Samoa and Hawai’i. His work was recognized by Congressman Eni Faleomavaega in a 2005 White House ceremony hosted by President George W. Bush to celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.

Salave’a and his wife, Josephine, have a daughter, Katalina Elizabeth, and a son, Joseph Fatuimoana Jr.