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Carolina Panthers

Frankie Luvu sharing his energy, and heritage

Frankie Luvu

CHARLOTTE — Brian Burns doesn't mind admitting — he wasn't sure at first what Frankie Luvu was saying. But he knows how it made him feel — ready to hit something.

Luvu created a reputation for bringing energy to games last season in his first year with the Panthers and has added to it this offseason by incorporating part of his heritage to the practice field.

The native of American Samoa has brought his traditional Siva Tau chant to the field, creating some juice before specific periods of practice.

"Intensity. If I had to put it in one word, intensity," Burns said of what it brings to the proceedings. "I love that, to be honest."

The chant, similar to the Haka the New Zealand rugby team has become famous for, is designed to inspire. It's designed to bring people together, to get them ready for whatever comes next.

"I feel like football is an aggressive sport, and you need to get that energy out of you. Get them butterflies out of you and get ready to go," Luvu said with a grin. "I'm trying to work a little Siva Tau, so when we get it down you'll see it. Right now, we're keeping it simple, so we're learning it as we go."

When Luvu gathers up the huddle, the short version begins almost quietly.

"Mili," Luvu chants as teammates rub their hands together, warming up gradually.

"Batia," comes next. This is the trigger, as players clap along with the rhythm Luvu creates. You can write the first few with a period at the end of the sentence, but they quickly become exclamation marks, as it picks up pace and that intensity Burns was talking about.

It comes to a crescendo at "Lua-mai," as players go to a two-clap, at which point they're all generally ready to put the same kind of enthusiasm he works with into their practice.

"I don't know what it means," Burns admitted. "But I know it sounds pretty dope."

"I'll be honest, I'm just trying to stay on the beat," wide receiver and special teamer Brandon Zylstra said with a shrug.

"It brings us together," safety Jeremy Chinn said. "It's electrifying. It gets us all on the same page, and brings that energy that not a lot of people bring. It's definitely infectious for the whole group.

"It's energy, and on top of knowing your brother's right here and ready to work. And then you hear that 'Batia, Batia,' It's an infectious energy, and it's real."

For Luvu, it's more than just something to fire up some teammates.

He learned it from the late Atonio "King" Tupuola, his coach at Tafuna High School. The Warriors teams became known for the chant, and Luvu knew what it could do to build a sense of community.

"'King,' he was very high on the Siva Tau," Luvu said. "It brought the team together, he was the tone-setter for the guys. He passed it down. When it was that time, he took it very seriously, because it got the guys locked in."

And what his old coach taught him was that it was about a certain togetherness, which brought the chants here.

The first time Luvu shared a version with his teammates was during a team meeting. A rookie had to sing, and it didn't go so well. There may have been some boos. Luvu quickly got everyone back on the same page, redirecting them with his energy.

"Everyone liked it; it got everybody locked in," Luvu recalled. "It's something I carried into game days, and got the whole team on it. Just try to create the energy and get ready to go to war.

"Everything we're saying in there is we're going to war, with my family. I've got my family. I've got my brother on my right hand and my left, right beside me. It relates to football, because it's a team and family sport."

The way Luvu brought that feeling is also consistent with the way he's played.

As a high-impact sub in 2021, Luvu made a number of bone-jarring hits and timely sacks. Now, there's even more of a burden on him. With Haason Reddick gone in free agency, they're planning a bigger role for Luvu this year in the base defense alongside veteran Shaq Thompson in hopes of generating more of that kind of passion.

"Obviously, they've asked me to take on a bigger role," he said. "My way of leading is by my actions. I'm not much of a talker. But if I make a play, or celebrate with other guys making a play, it trickles down. That's my way of leading.

"And I want to lead. I want to lead these guys. Being under Shaq's wing, a linebacker of his experience, dropping some knowledge onto me, and just making my game better and it's coming together as a whole."

So as the season progresses, Luvu wants to add to his game, but he's also planning to expand the tradition of the Siva Tau. As they transition from this week's minicamp toward training camp in late July, he wants to add to it, to share a little more with teammates as they grow together.

"They love it," Luvu said of the impact he's having. "The guys, before we go out there for a series or a team period, they enjoy it. I like doing it and they seem to like it.

"It's feeding off each other's energy. And we're talking a lot about that this year, energy, a lot of people flying around."

Luvu had three fumble recoveries to go with eight tackles for loss, one fumble recovery, 1.5 sacks and a blocked punt.

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