Haka craze reaches LSU campus

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If you call yourself a true LSU fan, apparently you’re going to have to learn the haka.

It ain’t no Cajun two-step.

But it’s already gone viral in Louisiana, literally sweeping up the LSU football team and it’s dominating YouTube.

Mid-season all-Americans Devin White and Grant Delpit are threatening to learn it and it’s in danger of getting most of the credit for last week’s LSU upset of then-No. 2 Georgia.

Blame it on the Hawaii invasion of the Southeastern Conference, which hit critical mass in the good ol’ boys conference a month ago when Alabama and Ole Miss played, and both starting quarterbacks were from the islands.

LSU’s homage to the culture is nose guard Breiden Fehoko, a transfer from Texas Tech who’s apparently set on experiencing as many culture shocks as possible in his football career.

But his father, Vili, is probably the biggest disciple of the Polynesian craziness that’s taking over the football program.

Vili had already become something of the adopted most fun dad among the Tigers. He’s a stocky extrovert who in a former life originated the famed “Vili the Warrior” mascot at the University of Hawaii.

He became more famous than any of the Warriors’ players back in the day when head coach June Jones was leading the school to the 2007 Sugar Bowl.

Breiden, then 7 years old, performed with his dad (wearing matching war paint) that night in the Superdome. A few days later, LSU beat Ohio State for the Bowl Championship Series national title, also in the Superdome.

Saturday the haka — a menacing, squared-up, double-foot stomping ritual that climaxes with one’s tongue stuck out at the world — came full circle.

Breiden and teammates were making their way down Victory Hill en route to LSU’s stadium on the Tiger Walk routine through adoring fans.

That’s when what will probably be a new LSU tradition was born.

When Fehoko approached his father in the crowd just before arriving at the stadium, Vili instinctively struck the pose and did the haka.

“I just lost it,” Fehoko said. “I had to do it too.”

So father and son went at it furiously, just like in the old days, with teammates looking on in astonishment and the surrounding fans going berserk.

Moments later, in the locker room, White and Delpit told Feiko he was going to have to teach it to them.

For that matter, head coach Ed Orgeron would appear to be a natural for an audition.

It’s a Polynesian thing, traced to the Maori culture.

The famed All Blacks, the national rugby team of New Zealand, have been doing it for years.

“The reason why I get so fired up is the meaning behind it. When you do that, my mind just flips,” Fehoko said. “I knew I was going to be ready to go. My spine tingles thinking about it.”

Fehoko’s version is that the legend back to the 1820s when a Maori chief, Te Rauparaha, enlisted the aid of a neighboring tribe, but instead found himself buried up to his neck in a pit.

He began chanting “Ka Mate,” which translated means “I die.” After a change of heart over several days he began furiously flinging away dirt, punctuating each thrust with “Ka Ora” — “I live.”

He eventually wiggled free and on the way out stole the neighboring chief’s wife, which apparently was worth inventing a dance-chant about.

“He’s saying phrases either he’s going to live or he’s going to die,” Fehoko explained. “I’m going to fight, I’m going to scratch, I’m going to claw for every breath I have and until the last breath I take I’m going to give it all I have. I’m going to fight for what I love.”

The tongue stuck out for the finale, in fact, means “I’m going to kill you and take what’s yours.”

That’s close enough to the Wikipedia version for Cajun translation, but over the years the haka became more of a great show of respect.

When the Fehokos met outside Tiger Stadium, they reverted to the old the war meanings.

“When they gift you with the haka, you usually sit there and accept,” Fehoko said of his much different reaction. “But I was about to play a game, No. 2 Georgia, I wasn’t going to sit there and take it.”

6 p.m. Saturday | ESPN

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