LARAMIE – Perhaps there is something when Cassh Maluia plays against a Football Championship Subdivision team.

In each of the past two seasons, Maluia, a senior weak-side linebacker for the University of Wyoming, has suffered injuries playing against FCS foes.

As a sophomore in 2017 against Gardner-Webb, Maluia broke his right thumb. The injury required surgery where pins were inserted. However, Maluia was back on the field the following week when UW hosted Oregon and recorded eight tackles. Maluia played in all 13 games for the Cowboys that season, wearing what looked like a giant club on his right hand to protect the thumb, and had the fourth-most tackles on the team with 74.

In 2018, Maluia injured his left elbow against Wofford in the season’s fourth game. He played the rest of the season with a bulky brace. Maluia’s tackle production fell to 47, but he had a career-best six tackles for loss, broke up four passes and had an interception.

After the season, Maluia said he had Tommy John surgery on the elbow, where a healthy tendon is taken from an arm or leg and used to replace the torn ligament. The healthy tendon is threaded through holes drilled into the bone above and below the elbow. Complete recovery takes between 18 to 24 months.

Maluia is less than 12 months out of surgery, and a full participant in fall camp. In fact, he has missed just two games in his UW career due to injuries, and has made 25 starts. His first career start was as a true freshman in the 2016 Mountain West Championship game against San Diego State.

But as a linebacker, having limited use of your arms is quite a challenge.

“It is really hard because linemen come at you and you don’t have a lot of time to punch and shed those blocks,” Maluia said. “It also is hard to wrap up and tackle, but dealing with those injuries helped me focus more on that which has helped me.”

The Cowboys are about halfway through fall camp, and Maluia said, “this is the best I’ve ever felt.” Maluia credits UW’s sports medicine staff for much of that, and also a change in his diet where – simply put – he is eating better with more fruits and vegetables.

Last week, Maluia was one of 62 players named to the 2019 Polynesian College Football player of the year watch list.

“There are a lot of good players out there, and being on that watch list is a great honor,” he said. “I am going to stick with what I’m doing, keep grinding and hope I can perform on the field.”

Obviously, Maluia has learned to play with pain and deal with the adversity of injuries, something most football players experience. Maluia also said his injury issues have allowed him to help teammates going through the same thing.

But as of now, Maluia is healthy and is hoping for an injury-free senior season.

“The past two seasons held me back somewhat, but now there is nothing holding me back and I’m ready to go,” he said.

One wouldn’t blame Maluia if he has Sept. 14 circled on his calendar. That’s when UW plays FCS foe Idaho in Laramie.

Robert Gagliardi is the WyoSports senior editor. He can be reached at rgagliardi@wyosports.net or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @rpgagliardi.

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