Tavo Motu‘apuaka joining brother, sister at USU


Some people want to get away from family when they go off to college.

Sione Tavo Motu‘apuaka decided to reunite with his brother and sister. The Mililani football and basketball player committed to Utah State, where older brother Hale plays football and older sister Kiana is a track and field athlete.

“I decided to stick with my family. It would be an honor to play with my brother for his last two years there. it’ll be more convenient for my family, too, when they visit,” said Motu‘apuaka, who was featured in Tuesday’s edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Lining up in the trenches for the Aggies, one of Hawaii’s foes in the Mountain West Conference, means he will come home at least twice when USU and the Warriors meet here. It also means turning down Hawaii, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah and Washington State.

“He reminds me of Jordan Agasiva,” Mililani coach Rod York said of the former Utah Ute and All-Pac 12 Conference first-team selection. “Both are nice guys off the field, happy-go-lucky, calm demeanors, but on the field they just flip the switch. They understand the leverage game. Even though they’re big, they’re technical from the feet to the elbows to the thumbs up. That’s what separates them, the tenacity.”

Some fun facts about the 6-foot-5, 280-pound offensive lineman:

>> Coach York calls him “Tongan Elvis.” Motu‘apuaka likes to play guitar and sing.

> He is named after his uncle, Sione Tavo, a former Tonga rugby star.

> Tavo enjoys visiting his grandfather, Tony Alvarez, a retired Navy chef who sometimes makes prime rib.

Between basketball practice and this week’s Polynesian Bowl festivities (and practices), Motu‘apuaka is a busy young man.

Tavo Motu‘apuaka turned down multiple scholarship offers from the Pac 12 Conference for a chance to attend Utah State, where his older brother and sister are student-athletes. Cindy Ellen Russell/crussell@staradvertiser.com.

Lockdown staples

Top 3 movies/shows

1.” When the Game Stands Tall”

2. “McFarland, USA”

3. “The Lion King” (original)

Top 3 foods/snacks/drinks

1. Anything cooked by his grandfather.

“He always cooks a variety of things. I’ll have two pieces of prime rib, lumpia, pancit, fried rice, mashed potatoes. Yeah. I can make fried rice, but nothing like prime rib,” he said. “We’re always over at his house, so he cooks for us at least once a week. He loves to cook for us.”

2. McChicken

“I really like McDonald’s. The only modifications I’ll do if I don’t get a McChicken is a McDouble, but I’ll ad mayo and ketchup.”

3. Aiea Bowl’s tasty chicken.

“It’s fried chicken like Korean fried chicken from Zippy’s, but it’s like 10 times better.”

Top 3 music artists

1. Bob Marley – “Ride Natty Ride”

2. Makisi – “Nofo Nofo”

“He’s a Tongan artist and makes a lot of really good Tongan songs. ‘Nofo Nofo’ is a love song.”

GPA: 3.4

Favorite class/teacher: P.E.

“On a serious note, probably history or math. It’s pretty fun and interesting. Favorite teachers, I had a lot of good teachers growing up. I went to Pearl Harbor Elementary School. That was in sixth grade. They were just really nice and they made the year really fun for us.”

Time machine

“I would probably go to the future just to see where I’m at, maybe like 10 years from now. I wouldn’t want to go too far. It would probably be boring by then. I wouldn’t want to go into the past. I don’t want to be tempted to fix anything ‘cause God does everything for a reason.”

New life skill

“Definitely how to use technology better. My junior year, everything was online (because of the pandemic). Another thing was time management because I knew I had to have really good grades and manage how to do sports at the same time.”

Favorite offensive lineman

“That’s hard. There’s a lot of guys I look up to like Penei Sewell. He’s a super young guy in the NFL right now. Quinten Nelson, he’s an absolute baller. I love his physicality. There’s this other guy, he went to Leilehua and played for Fresno (State). Now he’s playing in the NFL, Netane Muti. I love his playing style. I love to watch him.”

Favorite athlete

“Probably my uncle, Sione Tavo. That’s who I’m named after, my dad’s brother. He was on the national rugby team for Tonga back in his day. He was just a well-known rugby player, all around. He actually passed away in 2002, Jan. 19. Before I was born, my father wanted to name me after him. I was actually born on the same day he passed away, two years later, 2004.”

Shout outs

“Shout outs, man, there’s a lot of people. First off, my family, my uncle Dino (Alvarez). Shout out to my mom (Lisa Alvarez) and my dad (Sione Alaimoana Motu‘apuaka). Shout out to my grandparents. All my coaches I grew up training with, especially coach Steely (Malepeai), coach York, coach Jeff Tupea, coach Semaia (Salanoa), coach Fred Salanoa, coach Kip Akana, coach (Chris) Bisho, coach Al. Junior year I came to Miliani. Coach (Tim) Dunn, coach Hideki (Aoki). I was with coach (Brian) Derby for one year, but the year after that was COVID. A lot of coaches. Coach Whitley Fehoko, he really helped me a lot. During COVID when there was nothing to do, I ended up working out with their Trench Dawgz, falling in love with their program. Beach runs, lift weights. He’s just an amazing guy. Has a lot of love.”


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