Michigan freshman Bryan Mone meets challenges of family responsibilities

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Bryan Mone had to grow up faster than most kids his age.

His older brother, Filimone, seven years his senior, is unable to feed or take care of himself. Bryan Mone, now 18 and a freshman football player at Michigan, was a sixth-grader when he began to take much of the responsibility for caring for his brother.

Back home in Salt Lake City, there was school, football and his brother. Always his brother.

Mone enrolled early at Michigan, arriving in January to begin classes and workouts, and is an integral part of the defensive line.

He’ll enjoy Saturday’s game against Utah, because it’s a chance to see former teammates and friends — but mostly his parents and sister.

His brother, however, is unable to make the trip.

“My brother has always been my motivation, because growing up he couldn’t really feed himself or do all types of stuff, so I had to grow up soon enough to help out my mom and my sister,” said Mone, who had another older brother who died from leukemia.

Mone began caring for his brother in earnest in sixth grade, but didn’t feel comfortable with all his responsibilities until a few years later.

“I started getting used to it in junior high,” he said. “I knew what I had to do to take care of him.”

Mone never resented the responsibilities he had to take on. Sure, he missed out on some of the things kids his age were doing, but said he still managed to have fun.

“I had to grow up faster,” he said. “It’s a blessing. I see it as a blessing.”

Filimone was born in Fiji, and the family moved to the U.S., where Bryan was born, when their father, Havili, was offered a position as a minister in Salt Lake City. Church officials said they would pay for his son’s medical expenses.

Originally, he had planned to stay closer to home for college, but said he trusted the Michigan coaches and was sold on the university.

“Academic-wise, I knew could get something out of it,” Mone said.

Football-wise, as well.

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has been talking about Mone, a tackle, since spring practice.

“He has a great attitude and great talent,” Mattison said of the 6-foot-4, 312-pound Mone. “I mean, the sky’s the limit for him. We’re very pleased with Bryan.”

Mone said he was homesick when he arrived in January. While his classmates in Utah were settling into their final months of senior year, he was with college students taking classes and adjusting to a different level of football.

He relied on the comfort photos from home brought him, and he kept in close contact with family news, thanks to telephone calls.

Mone’s new teammates embraced him, and he already had a friendship with former Highland High teammate Sione Houma, a fullback at Michigan, to help ease his homesickness.

“Ever since Bryan came out here, he’s been a really big part of my life,” Houma said. “I know I’ve been a big part in his life. It’s really enjoyable to know he’s here with me. I know he misses his brother a lot.”

Mone said he gets updates on Filimone from his mother, and while he misses his family, his parents, sister and brother are the reasons he has chosen the path to Ann Arbor.

“My family, that’s my motivation,” Mone said. “They make me go hard every day, especially my brother and my mom. We come from nothing, so that’s my motivation. That’s why I need to do it for them. It’s a lot of pressure. I enjoy doing it, the struggle.”

Utah at Michigan

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: ABC/WWJ

Records: Utah 2-0, Michigan State 2-1

Line: Michigan by 6

Series: Tied 1-1 (Utah 25-23, Aug. 30, 2008)

Did you know? Michigan has started 2-2 four times since 2000 — 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2012.