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
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!
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