The tattoos that adorn a lot of Frankie Luvu’s physique supply a highway map of the Panthers linebacker’s life, beginning in the beginning (the “96” on his left leg signifies his delivery 12 months) and persevering with by means of the milestones he’s reached and the tragedies he’s endured.
Luvu, who joined the Panthers final 12 months, accomplished the artwork on his left leg in Might with a number of new tattoos that included the NFL defend, together with the Kobe Bryant quote, “Job’s not completed.”
There’s no ink on Luvu’s proper leg, which stays a clean slate to commemorate the accomplishments nonetheless to return.
“Kobe was by no means happy doing one factor. There was all the time one thing increased than what he’d achieved, all the time one thing higher he pushed for,” Luvu mentioned in a latest interview with The Athletic.
The 25-year-old Luvu introduced a pure power and nostril for the soccer to the Panthers throughout his first season in Charlotte in 2021. Regardless of beginning simply 4 video games, Luvu stuffed the stat sheet with 1 1/2 sacks, a blocked punt, a compelled fumble and three fumble recoveries, the third most in a single season in franchise historical past.
The Panthers rewarded Luvu by re-signing him to a two-year contract value $9 million, together with $4.5 million assured. Just like the late Bryant, the Lakers star who died in a helicopter crash in 2020, Luvu is targeted extra on what’s subsequent somewhat than what’s already on the again of his soccer card.
“I really feel like for me, the job isn’t performed. I’m nonetheless early in my profession, happening my fifth 12 months. There’s much more to do — not solely by means of soccer, however by means of life,” he mentioned. “Simply taking good care of my complete household and people who have been there for me (for) help.”
Luvu’s household and his help community have been examined final 12 months following the demise of his oldest brother, a person Luvu regarded as much as and whose reminiscence he’s decided to honor.
Luvu is the youngest of Veresa and Faaloiloia Luvu’s eight kids, all of whom performed soccer rising up in American Samoa within the south Pacific. Luvu’s brothers additionally performed soccer, however he was the one one to stay with the game by means of faculty. (Luvu was a four-year starter at Washington State, the place he was a disruptive defensive drive for former Cougars coach Mike Leach.)
Ten years separated Luvu and his oldest brother, Frazier, whom Luvu typically emulated, together with methods to act round members of the other intercourse.
“He was like an enormous bro. He was just about my twin. All the things he did, I kinda like adopted him, so far as being an older brother and the way he regarded out for us,” Luvu mentioned. “Ladies, like he was simply clean with every thing. I simply felt like, man, I need to be like him.”
Whereas Luvu was taking part in within the Pac-12 and ultimately the NFL, Frazier was dwelling in Alaska, the place he labored in a warehouse loading vehicles into delivery containers. Luvu mentioned Frazier had been struggling along with his psychological well being and had tried suicide early in 2021.
A number of of Luvu’s siblings traveled to Alaska to examine on Frazier, who later flew to Arizona to spend time with Luvu, who was doing his offseason coaching in Phoenix. Luvu mentioned his brother was in good spirits whereas the 2 loved a number of days of mountaineering and hanging out.
“I flew him out to me, simply attempting to get that bond and ensure he was straight along with his mentals. He regarded good,” Luvu mentioned. “All the things we did, he was comfortable. Went on hikes, went out. He was being like him(self).”
After Frazier returned to Alaska, he texted his youngest brother and advised him he would come see him in Arizona once more. The 2 mentioned a Mexican trip.
“I used to be gonna take us someplace,” Luvu mentioned. “That was the plan.”
However a number of days later, Luvu acquired phrase that Frazier had died by suicide March 6. He was 34.
“When it occurred, I used to be like, that’s not true. That’s not Fraz,” he mentioned. “However when it hit me and so they confirmed every thing was performed, it was a nasty day.”
Frazier’s demise occurred across the time the Jets — who had signed Luvu as an undrafted free agent in 2018 — selected to not tender him as a restricted free agent, making him free to signal with any staff. The Panthers provided Luvu a one-year deal for $1.1 million. He got here to Charlotte and signed the contract March 24, only a few days after attending Frazier’s funeral in Seattle.
“He was undoubtedly devastated. It was a shock,” mentioned Blake Baratz, Luvu’s agent. “I do know he’s very near his brother, very near his mother and father, very shut household. It was powerful. It was definitely a tough couple weeks, certainly.”
It helped that Luvu had somebody within the Panthers’ group who may relate to what he was going by means of. Samir Suleiman, the staff’s vp of soccer administration, had a youthful sister who died by suicide as an adolescent.
Baratz mentioned Suleiman spoke with Luvu about their shared expertise and let Luvu know he was obtainable if he or his household ever wished to speak with him.
Luvu performed final season with Frazier near his coronary heart. On his proper torso, Luvu has a tattoo of his brother, taken from a portrait wherein Frazier is smiling whereas carrying a baseball cap. Beneath the image is the date of Frazier’s demise in Roman numerals: III-VI-XXI.
Luvu mentioned the tattoo is a solution to bear in mind and honor his brother, which Luvu additionally tried to do by means of his play final season.
“Clearly, there’s a major grieving course of. However he all the time simply had the best outlook of what can I do to make my brother proud and honor him?” Baratz mentioned. “And I believe that’s what he’s performed.”
Luvu has one other tattoo on his neck that he received in Might that depicts the icon of a cellphone battery, juiced to one hundred pc.
“I’m large on power and simply having that prime motor. I’m all the time full charged,” Luvu mentioned. “That’s what I say to (teammates). I’m like, ‘Test the battery.’ It’ll be like absolutely charged.”
Not that his teammates want any additional proof of Luvu’s power. Luvu will get everybody fired up when he breaks down the defensive huddles with a standard Samoan warfare chant. Luvu told Panthers.com that his highschool coach taught him the Siva Tau chant, which the Samoan nationwide rugby staff makes use of as its rally cry.
“I’m large on power and attempting to feed off it. I’m not a lot of a talker, so I attempt to lead totally different,” Luvu mentioned. “Simply spark one thing out of the protection (so) we’ll be flying round.”
Equally efficient as the mantra is the best way Luvu approaches each play prefer it could possibly be his final — a mentality he adopted after he didn’t get invited to the mix after his remaining season at Washington State, then sat by means of three days of the draft with out listening to his identify referred to as.
“My mentality coming in was simply attempt to take somebody’s job. I used to be undrafted. That was sort of like my edge,” he mentioned. “I wasn’t the neatest. I really feel like for me simply to leap out on the movie with my effort, attempt to flash on movie.”
Luvu was primarily a particular groups participant in three seasons with the Jets, though he had three sacks and 11 quarterback hits as a rookie when he performed 45 % of the defensive snaps.
The Panthers purchased low on Luvu final winter, who was a very good discover by normal supervisor Scott Fitterer and the professional scouts, although the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder is one thing of a ’tweener position-wise. In reality, Baratz, Luvu’s Minneapolis-based agent, wasn’t positive initially whether or not Luvu could be a very good slot in Phil Snow’s protection.
“When he received there, I believe they noticed simply the power and the fervour that he was bringing to the staff — whether or not it was on particular groups, protection. And kudos to the employees for determining methods to use him correctly as a result of plenty of groups would simply throw their fingers up and say: ‘He doesn’t match what we do. He’s not the prototypical this or he’s not the prototypical that,’” Baratz mentioned. “However you possibly can’t conceal the power. You possibly can’t faux the power and you’ll’t faux making performs.”
Snow lined up Luvu in a number of spots to attempt to create pass-rushing mismatches and needs to increase Luvu’s repertoire this season.
“He can create plenty of havoc by sending him in numerous areas. That’s his largest asset,” Snow mentioned. “However Frankie’s made plenty of progress dropping (in protection). We’ve dropped him quite a bit this spring, and he’s making actually good progress. So I believe you’re gonna see a extra all-around linebacker this fall from Frankie.”
Luvu mentioned he appreciates the belief the Panthers have proven by re-signing him and having him play each inside and out of doors linebacker spots. It might be laborious to not additionally use Luvu on particular groups after he completed tied for second with 9 special-teams tackles, whereas including a blocked punt and a compelled fumble.
Baratz mentioned Luvu reminds him of one among his different shoppers who performed in Carolina — free security Kurt Coleman, who joined the Panthers in 2015 and began 15 video games and had a team-high seven interceptions for a star-studded staff that superior to the Tremendous Bowl.
“He will not be the most important, the quickest, the highest-drafted, the pedigree. However he’s extraordinarily effectively revered. He’s a frontrunner. … He brings the power on each play. He’s comfortable for his teammates,” Baratz mentioned. “Totally different positions, totally different occasions, totally different gamers. However there’s plenty of similarities between these two guys. You possibly can’t have sufficient of these forms of guys in your staff.”
Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson can’t bear in mind a day he’s walked onto the follow discipline to search out Luvu trying listless or going by means of the motions.
“Nah,” Thompson mentioned, “he’s all the time received power.
“Frankie’s all the time going to be himself,” added Thompson, a defensive captain. “He’s energetic. He’s a frontrunner. He’s an enormous a part of our protection. He’s one you possibly can depend on to make a play. He’s one you possibly can depend on off the sector to be there for you.”
Luvu is searching for alternatives to make extra of an impression off the sector, with a watch on initiatives to boost psychological well being consciousness. (Suleiman wore custom shoes last season as a part of the NFL’s My Trigger My Cleats marketing campaign to honor his sister and convey consciousness to the Defensive Line basis, fashioned by the Raiders’ Solomon Thomas with the purpose of stopping youth suicide.)
“I really feel prefer it’s an enormous situation on this world — not checking up in your important others or simply your loved ones members,” Luvu mentioned. “I by no means thought for a man nearly as good as Frazier (appeared) — good vibes and simply good power, all the time had me smiling. You’d by no means know. It comes with individuals like that, too, that you just assume every thing’s OK. However actually (deep) down it’s not OK.”
Greater than a 12 months after his brother’s demise, Luvu needs to proceed to recollect Frazier and be sturdy for his household, with out dwelling an excessive amount of on the loss.
“I attempt my finest to place myself in a very good house. Particularly after I come to work, attempting to place that apart,” he mentioned. “That’s simply including extra wooden to the fireplace for me to maintain pushing what I do.”
To maintain pushing in a job not but completed.
(Prime picture of Frankie Luvu: Bob Donnan / USA Right this moment)