Standing Tall: Senior defensive end Antonio ‘Tree’ May lives up to his billing

One of the last things opponents entering Romney Stadium would expect to find on the field is a tree. Yet when it comes to lining up against the Aggies defense that is exactly what opposing offenses get in Utah State defensive end Antonio May – in more ways than one.May, a 6-foot-5, 231-pound senior, stands tall and imposing in front of opposing offenses, serving as a gridiron manifestation to the stout and sturdy pines of his native state of Arkansas. It doesn’t hurt, either, that ‘Tree’ just happens to be his middle name.”It really is my middle name,” says Antonio Tree May, laughing. “My teammates just think it’s a nickname, but that’s the truth of it. I don’t know what my mom was thinking or what was going through her head at the time, but it’s just the name she gave me.”Could Antonio’s mother, Vivian, have known her son would grow into the mammoth and athletic football player that he is today? Antonio’s position coach, Chad Kauha’aha’a, can’t say for sure, but is happy to have such a talented — not to mention physically striking — player at his disposal.”If you look at his height, that says it all,” says Kauha’aha’a. “He’s tall like a tree, so that’s one of the reasons why we call him ‘tree.’ He’s got long arms, and he’s tall – about 6-foot-5 – and his arms make him seem like he’s 10-feet tall.”Accidental or not, there’s nothing funny about Antonio’s middle name. A starter in two games during 2008 and three games thus far this year, he has proved that he’s more than just a big body when it comes to his play on Utah State’s attack-oriented defensive line. In addition to recording seven tackles for a loss in 2008, he also recovered a fumble against Oregon for a touchdown. This year, in front of friends and family in an away game at Texas A&M, May had a career day when he recorded a sack and two pass break ups. His success hasn’t gone unnoticed and it comes as no surprise to Kauha’aha’a.”Antonio is an easy guy to work with and he is very coachable,” says the first-year defensive line coach. “He works hard everyday in practice, and he is a guy we count on in every game to contribute and make things happen for us defensively.”Of course, such success isn’t fashioned by God-given physical stature alone, and it hasn’t always come easy for May. A native of Ashtown, Ark., he originally had planned to go to the University of Houston after a standout prep career. Those plans fell through, however, when a change in coaching staffs at the university left May without a Division I scholarship offer, forcing the former three-sport high school athlete to attend junior college. It was at Dodge City JC in Dodge City, Kan., where May not only caught the eye of the Utah State coaching staff, but developed into the hard-working young man he is today.”It helped a lot,” May says of his junior college experience. “It helped me grow up a lot away from home. On and off the field, just dealing with responsibilities and being on my own.”While he admits that Utah is a bit “different” from Arkansas, May says he wouldn’t change his experience at Utah State over the past year and a half, and is looking forward to going out with a winning home record this November. It’s a goal Coach Kauha’aha’a wants for all of the Aggie seniors, but one which is only attainable if the player they call ‘Tree’ can stand and deliver on his enormous potential.”We need him to play hard. It is his senior year, and he has got to make the most of every opportunity when he is in the game, and every opportunity has got to count,” said Kauha’aha’a.”I don’t know what the future holds for Antonio, but if he does not get a shot at the next level, he’s got to hang it all on the line these last few games. It’s his senior year and he wants to go out as a winner, at least with a home winning record here, so that’s the goal for Tree and he just has to play hard for these last few games.”-USU-

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