SAN DIEGO -- He won’t make anyone forget Buck Buchanan, but Ropati Pitoitua is making a name for himself in Kansas City. “The opportunities I’ve been given, I’m just trying to make the most of them whenever I get a chance,” Pitoitua told Cougfan.com Sunday in San Diego following the Chiefs' game with the Chargers.
The former standout Washington State d-lineman has taken advantage of the absence of starting defensive end Glenn Dorsey, who has missed three games this season with injuries. Although Pitoitua isn’t making Chiefs fans forget about Dorsey either, he is making strides and is showing he’s a capable performer when the club is without No. 5 overall of 2008 NFL Draft.
And with his humble nature, Pitoitua is just enjoying the ride.
“It’s been good,” he said of his playing time. “I’m still learning. But I just try to do the best I can out there.”
In seven games with the Chiefs, his first season with the club, Pitoitua already has surpassed the numbers he put up in four years with the New York Jets. And unlike New York, where he never started a game, he has started three with the Chiefs.
Pitoitua has 20 tackles, 14 of them solo this season. He had a career-high six, two for losses, and a pair of sacks in the Chiefs’ 37-20 loss to the Chargers on Sept. 30 in Kansas City. In the 31-13 setback at San Diego this past weekend, Potoitua recorded four tackles.
It hasn’t all been peaches and cream, though. Actually, it’s been a tough season to swallow for Pitoitua. The AFC West cellar-dwelling Chiefs (1-7) have lost their last five games heading into Sunday’s contest at Pittsburgh. And they haven’t led during regulation all season. Kansas City’s lone victory was a 27-24 overtime win over the New Orleans Saints in Week 3.
“It’s been hard obviously with the season and the way it’s been going,” Pitoitua said. “We’re just trying to work every day and trying to get better, trying to fix it. That’s all we can do right now, play one game at a time and try to get better. We’ve got to get better.”
It’s been a slow climb for Pitoitua since his rookie season in 2008, when he signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of WSU. He made the team but barely played in New York and spent the 2010 season on injured reserve with an Achilles injury.
Overall, the 6-8, 315-pounder appeared in 22 games, finishing with 22 tackles, three for losses, and a sack. Most of those came in his final season, when he registered 19 tackles in 14 games.
But he has found new life in Kansas City, signing with the club in May after the Jets released him.
At WSU, the Clover Park High star emerged in 2006, when he recorded 37 tackles -- 16 solo and 7.5 for losses. He also had 2.5 sacks.
In his 12 starts as a senior, he finished with 42 tackles and earned the Leon Bender Award as WSU's top defensive lineman.
Potoitua, 27, a Samoa native, who calls Spanaway home, has cherished memories of playing for the Cougars and former coach Bill Doba.
“It was a great experience with Doba,” he said. “I learned a lot from those guys.”
He also believes Mike Leach is a good fit for WSU.
“Oh yeah, I like what I’m seeing on the field right now,” Pitoitua said. “They’ll get it turned around.”