Take away the shoulder pads, cleats, helmet and superior size and athleticism, and Faatuiolemotu “Tui” Tuitele is still a scholar with big dreams.
Judge Tuitele? Why not. Not so long ago, NFL Hall of Fame defensive tackle Alan Page eventually became a judge.
With a 4.0 grade-point average and a heart to serve people, Tuitele — better known as “Tui” to teammates and friends — has aim and focus regardless of what his goals are. Right now, outside the classroom, he is the product of doting parents, Justin and Loitera, and the nurturing, yet rugged trail of his youth. Mayor Wright Housing. Ka‘iulani Elementary School. Central Razorbacks.
Ultimately, his parents sent him to Saint Louis in eighth grade, where there was a lack of depth at defensive line. Tuitele, along with teammates like Gino Quinones (commit to USC), shored up that problem. By ninth grade, Tuitele was one of the shining stars at the Nike Sparq Combine in February, 2015. The result of all his dedication: two state titles in a row, with a 2-0 start to the current season. Oh, and a No. 10 national ranking by MaxPreps.
Crusaders coach Cal Lee can’t heap any higher praise on Tuitele, who has 39 scholarship offers.
“I wish I had 100 like Tui,” he said.
Punahou coach Kale Ane, a former NFL offensive lineman, compares Tuitele to a former Buffanblu and Notre Dame standout.
“Yes, he reminds me of Jason Ching, our defensive lineman who went to Notre Dame. Jason was a great player and a better person who made everyone around him better. No one could block him. Tui is the same. A great player and terrific person who dominates play. He’s smart, too,” Ane said.
Kapolei coach and former Hawaii defensive lineman Darren Hernandez thought of another former local standout.
“Tui reminds me of Lauvale Sape, who played for Leilehua, the University of Utah and the Buffalo Bills,” Hernandez said of the 1998 Leilehua graduate. “He was a 6-2, 290-pound All-State defensive tackle. Cat quick and strong. He had a really strong grip, violent hands. He was tough to block and dominated the line of scrimmage. Tui reminds me a lot of him.”
Kamehameha coach Abu Ma‘afala recalled another Tuitele.
“His dad (Justin) was a heck of a player at McKinley,” Ma‘afala said. “Tui comes from good stock. His dad is actually part of the reason I chose to wear No. 43. Nobody knows that.”
Now they do. Tuitele would love nothing more than to land at a great university, get his degree, pursue his passions and provide for his family.
“They’ve made so many sacrifices for me,” he said.
Tuitele chatted with Hawaii Prep World during the weekend of Hurricane Lane. See the video interview for the follow-up to his Q&A.
His full-length feature story is also available in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which you can read here.
Q&A • Favorites
Athlete: Aaron Donald
Team: New England Patriots
Food (at home): Pisupo and Spaghetti.
Food (eating out): Korean Fried Chicken… ALLLLLLLL RICE
Hobby outside of sports: Carrying all the boys on Fortnite. Oh and eating.
Movie: When the Game Stands Tall
TV show: The Flash
Video game: Madden, Call of Duty, NBA 2K, Fortnite
Music artist: Kapena, Boyz 2 Men, Tupac, NWA, Drake, and a lot more.
Teacher (elementary through high school):
There have been a lot of teachers during my career in school that have impacted my life. I don’t know who to choose. But I thank them all for not giving up on me and taking time out of their days to help me learn new things.
Class: Lunch! Nah nah, I like Math!
Place to relax:
Beach or a friends house to relax my mind and enjoy life a little
“There is a place where I rather be, high in the buildings of Mayor Wright Housing.” (Mayor Wright Housing Anthem)
What your mom (Loitera) says that you can’t forget:
My mom, always says “go out there and make your stats! Win or lose, we’ll always be proud of you. I love you son”
What your dad (Justin) says that you can’t forget:
My dad, always says “no matter what you do, play physical, play fast and play hard! But most of all, HAVE FUN! I love you boy”
What your coaches say that you can’t forget:
You’re not only playing for yourself. You’re playing for your family in the stands, your brothers next to you and CRUSADER NATION!! Go out there and kick some a**!
How does your sport affect your daily life during the season and offseason?
During the season, my life would consist of strictly school and football. Wake up, go school, pau school, practice, training, homework then sleep. It is tiring but the sacrifice is worth it. Off season, I did boxing every morning at 9 a.m. with Nito Boxing then would go to Kimo Luna at UFC Gym to train. After I would go to Saint Louis and get some drills and running in on the field.
What middle and elementary schools did you attend?
I went to Ka’iulani Elementary School then Central Middle School. I went to Central until seventh grade then transferred to Saint Louis in eighth grade.
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 Central Razorbacks in sixth and seventh grade. It was year round so it kept me in shape and kept me busy.
What do you like to do, or what’s something else you’re good at, that would surprise most people?
In the future, I want to become a prosecutor or a defense attorney. Maybe even a judge. This may change over time, but this is what I want as of now.
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 would definitely want to go to Samoa and American Samoa to see my roots. Get to know my culture more and see where I come from. As an athlete, I don’t want much in my life. I don’t ask for much. I just want a simple life. I want to give back to my family for they have sacrificed a lot for me. That is my ultimate goal.
What is the history and background of your name?
My name is originated from the village of Leone in America Samoa. I am named after the Chief or Ali’i of the western region of America Samoa.
Any shout-outs or additional thoughts are welcome. Mahalo!
First of all I just want to thank Our Heavenly Father Above for all He has done for my family and I! Thank you to my family and friends for all their love and support! Last but not least, thank you to my coaches for teaching me this game of football.