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In the span of one conversation with an elder man, Praise Viliamu will say the word “sir” more times than most teenagers may in a week.

Yes, sir.

No, sir.

Pleasure to meet you, sir.

If there was an all-conference award for being polite, the 17-year-old North Medford senior’s name would definitely make that list.

So it’s a true wonder what happens when Viliamu takes the football field for the Black Tornado because there, well, the blitz-prone linebacker is anything but nice.

“Praise plays hard all the time and he doesn’t let the little things get in his way,” says North Medford head coach Mike Mitchell of the Samoan product.

“I’ve had several kids from the islands and they just play football the way it’s supposed to be played,” he adds. “They play with emotion in everything they do. Sometimes we have to contain that emotion with him but I would rather have to do that and deal with it than anything else. It’s not mean stuff, he just gets his motor going and just doesn’t want to stop.”

Viliamu was a first-team all-Southwest Conference linebacker last season and has shown no signs of slowing down in his final go-round for the Black Tornado as it preps for Friday’s 31st Black and Blue Game against South Medford at Spiegelberg Stadium.

“It’s my last year so I’ve just got to do my best,” Viliamu says of his mindset on the field. “I’m very proud to be a Black Tornado, and I just try to go out there and ball out for my boys basically.”

Viliamu’s exploits certainly haven’t gone unnoticed across town at South Medford, where junior Jaylin Parnell was also a first-team all-SWC linebacker in 2015.

“He’s physical, he plays every single play and he’ll hit you hard,” says Parnell. “He’s not going to quit, he’ll come after you every single play and I like to play against guys like that. It really gives you a sense of where you’re at and it really challenges you to play harder and step up to another level.”

Viliamu, who is also accomplished in taekwondo, isn’t quite sure where his on-field passion comes from beyond just a desire to make sure he does his part for his team.

“It doesn’t really come from anything because it’s just a game,” admits the 6-foot, 225-pounder. “I know the team depends on me to do my work and I just put that in the back of my head. If I don’t do my assignment then bad things come, so I’ve just got to give my all for the team.”

Thus far, Viliamu has been a prime reason why North Medford is off to a 3-1 start and ranks second in the SWC in total defense (268 yards per game) with 11 takeaways. His four short-yardage touchdowns have him as the Tornado’s leading scorer with 24 points in limited time on offense.

However he is used is of no concern to Viliamu, who won gold in sparring at the 2015 USAT National Taekwondo Championships.

“I just do whatever they want me to do,” says Viliamu, who carries a 3.3 grade-point average. “If they want to send me over and over, I’m happy to do it. I’ve been making good progress when they send me, so whatever they want I’ll do.”

And that’s exactly why Viliamu is a favorite among his coaches and teammates.

“That kind of enthusiasm he has is contagious and the rest of the guys step up when he plays well,” says Mitchell. “There’s certain guys that just do that for your team and he’s one of them.”

“He’s a good kid, respectful all the time with good parents,” adds the coach. “We love having him here. He’s the main leader right now of this football team.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

North Medford senior Praise Viliamu, left, and South Medford junior Jaylin Parnell fill similar roles on offense and defense for their respective teams, who meet in the 31st Black and Blue Game Friday. DENISE BARATTA/MAIL TRIBUNE