Q&A: Kaimuki ironman lineman Sama Paama

Kaimuki two-way standout lineman Sama Paama is headed to the University of Washington next year. Photo by Dennis Oda/Star-Advertiser.

Sama Paama keeps things focused and basic.

The 6-foot-4, 355-pound two-way lineman — and occasional placekicker — has learned what it takes to turn a dream into reality. Carve away the distractions. Eyes on the prize. It’s a tool of success that he learned during his years at Kaimuki High School. Next stop: Washington.

For years, all he would think about was USC. Then he started drawing attention from Hawaii, Pac-12 schools, including USC, as well as Big 12 and ACC programs.

“I didn’t hear of them (Washington). USC was my dream school. It’s just when I went on my visit (to UW), it changed my whole mindset about college itself,” said Paama, who was featured in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which you can read by clicking here.

The morning after Kaimuki’s game with Waialua, he was in a classroom taking the SAT for a second time. He’s ahead of schedule academically thanks to the Kaimuki To College program. His only classes right now are in the afternoon, and he has just two. If his SAT scores and GPA lift a little more, he will be an NCAA qualifier.

The route from Palolo Valley to Seattle, Wash., is one Paama says he’s ready for. This wasn’t the case just a few years ago. He attended Jarrett Middle School, then Damien as a freshman. He moved to Samoa for a year, then returned and went to Kaimuki as a sophomore.

Bulldogs coach David Tautofi wasn’t familiar with the new kid.

“You’ll always see size, but it doesn’t always pan out. What makes him different was the five-man sled. I was standing on one end and he literally lifted me off the sled. I’m looking at my brother (assistant coach Darrell Tautofi) and said, ‘Have him do it again,’ ” said Tautofi, who was 265 pounds when he suited up for UCLA two decades ago.

Tautofi was a Kaimuki standout back then, went to Fresno City College, then UCLA, and later coached in Nevada and returned to the islands. The bond between the head coach and the lead ‘Dog in the trenches, Paama, is tight.

“Thanks to Coach T, he helped me a lot. He has a (SAT) prep class,” Paama said. “He looks at our grades every day. If he knows you need help, he’ll help you. He’s always on us. You can’t get away with bad grades.”

Paama hopes to acclimate to life in the Northwest quickly. Life away from home, in a tiny dorm room, won’t stop him from using one of his favorite life skills: making perfect fried chicken.

“I learned to make it from my mom,” he said.

He has learned a lot from Ana, a single mother. Since moving back from Samoa, they settled in Waipahu, which means Paama commutes to school on TheBus daily with a friend. In the offseason, the work doesn’t stop.

“He’s worked hard on his get-off,” Bulldogs defensive line coach Allen Fortson said. “He’s a hard, hard worker.”

Name: Sama Paama
School sport: football 
Class: Sr.

Q&A / Favorites

Athlete: Troy Polamalu

Team: Denver Broncos 

Food (at home): fried chicken

Food (eating out): spicy ahi poke

Hobby outside of sports: music

TV show: The 100

Video game: Fortnite 

Class: Algebra II, Trigonometry

Place to relax: home 

What your mom (name) says that you can’t forget: “Sama, do your work!”

What your coaches say that you can’t forget: “We’re not only playing for ourselves, but we are also playing for this community, who’s in dire need of a championship.”

How does your sport affect your daily life during the season and offseason?
It doesn’t really affect my daily life, it just takes up time but that’s good because I only worry about football and school.

What middle and elementary schools did you attend?
Sixth and seventh grade I went to Jarrett Middle School and my eighth grade year I went to Damien. But elementary, I went to Palolo.

What youth teams did you play for? What club do you play for and what are the daily commitments like year-round?
I played for Palolo Nesians as a youth. I didn’t play for any clubs as a youth.

Where have you travelled for your sport(s)? 
Well last year I traveled with the linemen all star team to Cali for the tournament and this year again, also last week we went up to Vegas to play Sierra Vista.

What do you like to do — or what’s something else you’re good at — that would surprise most people?
Volleyball, I think.

What is your ultimate dream/bucket list? Where would you like to travel, what life would you like to have as an athlete? And away from sports? 
I don’t really know where to travel to, but I want to travel a lot. My life as an athlete would be just a simple life.

What is the history and background of your name?
Well, Evangelist comes from the Bible and Sama comes from my dad (Elisama).

Any shout-outs or additional thoughts are welcome. Mahalo!


  1. To da house September 18, 2018 12:01 pm

    Awesome to hear student-athletes putting in the work on the field as well as in the classroom.
    Just one more Hawaii student-athlete to cheer for.
    Much success!!!

  2. Palolo Proud September 18, 2018 12:57 pm

    good job Sama man you have grown up so much, one of the palolo nesians you was a beast back then and still is, keep on the good work Sama

  3. we them dawgs September 18, 2018 1:21 pm

    big dawgs making some noise

  4. KaimukiHS98 September 18, 2018 1:52 pm

    awesome job Sama

  5. saywat September 18, 2018 2:02 pm

    #RISEUP BULLDOG Keep represents our Kaimuki Bulldawg

  6. phILHarmonic September 18, 2018 3:15 pm

    First off do not take this as a dig at the kid or school.

    What happens if he doesnt get his SAT or GPA up?

    Is there someone in the community that can kokua??

    Lets get this guy qualified!!!

  7. Aloha September 18, 2018 3:47 pm

    i totally agree with phILHarmonic he deserved it

  8. ??? September 19, 2018 8:09 am


  9. Ira Laikupu September 19, 2018 9:10 am

    I watched Sama play against my sons team up here in Vegas. He he a special athlete, big in size and fast. He is strong as well. I had the opportunity to see him in the airport before Kaimuki left and he is a very humble young man. I wish you the best of luck Sama in your future with college and football. Keep up the good work. GOD BLESS YOU & YOUR FAMILY. ALOHA

  10. Ken Mua September 19, 2018 12:57 pm

    this kid is a beast and very humble, keep up the good work SAMA stay blessed best of luck to the kaimuki with your season

  11. iKnown September 19, 2018 1:04 pm

    this kid is blessed with the talent not only in football just seen him singing on OLELO TV

  12. HearMyTrainAComin September 20, 2018 6:04 am

    You meet kids like Sama every year from here. Super quiet, super humble, just naturally talented who wants a chance to play ball at the next level. Super excited to have him on. USC was his dream school but the trip to UW locked him up. Pretty cool.

  13. Inevergiveup September 20, 2018 11:49 am

    Seems like a cool young man. Great smile. Wouldn’t want to line up across from him. He’s going to be a monster.

    Go Sama!

    Go Dawgs!!

  14. ???? September 20, 2018 2:47 pm

    ball out you

  15. Dave Ramsay September 23, 2018 2:09 pm

    As a UW alum, Husky fan and season ticket holder, I am very much looking forward to welcoming Saama to Seattle. Saama, I hope your season ends the way you want this year. I would love to taste your (your Mom’s) fried chicken! Blessings! Dave Ramsay.

  16. dawgs October 8, 2018 5:40 am

    continue to ball out Sama you’ve come along way, stay blessed

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