Player pursues glory

You can never truly appreciate a man’s glory, until you learn his story.

Pfungwa Mahefu, a student from Mutare, Zimbabwe, is the No. 1 player on the Rattler men’s tennis team. That’s his glory, but how Mahefu has become a leader despite growing up as an orphan in impoverished Zimbabwe is an inspiring story.

Last summer, he won the Zimbabwe Open, which is the equivalent to the U.S. Open in his native country.

“It was shocking, I didn’t know what to expect. I just gave it my all,” the junior political science student said. “Other than coming to college, that was my biggest accomplishment.”

In addition to battling the best player from the opposing team, Mahefu is the emotional rock for the men’s team. The 21-year-old practices with his teammates during his free time to help improve their game. His concern for his teammates goes beyond tennis.

“Pfungwa is great. When I first came here, he was the easiest person for me to relate to,” said sophomore Errol Tshabe, a 20-year-old environmental science student from East London, South Africa. “Most of my serious conversations about life are held with him.”

Mahefu has known assistant head coach Noel Wadawu for 13 years. The two, who attended the same high school, met while playing on the small junior tennis circuit in their homeland of Zimbabwe.

“In Zimbabwe, there’s only about 250 kids on the junior tennis circuit. So you see the same people at every tournament.” Wadawu said.

Wadawu came to FAMU two years before Mahefu. Wadawu told Mahefu that he liked the direction in which the tennis program was going and urged his countryman to join him on the Hill.

“I’ve always looked up to him. He always did the right things at the right time,” Mahefu said. “I still look up to him.”

When Mahefu arrived at FAMU it was a total culture shock. He had to get used to the American approach.

“It was a different system.” Mahefu said. “Here, you lookout for yourself. At home, it’s more of a community.”

Mahefu wants to give professional tennis a shot before applying to law school at either FAMU or the University of Florida. He aspires to work with kids as a juvenile lawyer. His motivation to help youth comes from the hardships that he experienced growing up as an orphan.

“I think that some kids are put into situations because of the mistakes their parents made, and the children end up getting lost. Parents play a pivotal role in a child’s life,” he said. “I grew up by myself, and everything that I have I got by myself. You have to be really focused to get what you want by yourself.”

Contact Nick Birdsong at