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Sandy Journal

‘I’m doing everything for her’ — Alta senior playing in memory of his mother

Sep 19, 2018 10:34AM ● By Jana Klopsch

Misi Tuitahi (who wears the same number as his favorite player, Troy Polamalu) winds up to make a tackle against a Woods Cross player. (Justin Adams/City Journals)

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

Athletes will do just about anything to give themselves a mental or emotional edge. Some wear a “lucky” pair of socks. Some have a pregame ritual or favorite game-night meal. As for Alta senior safety Misi Tuitahi, he visits his mother’s grave before every game.

Daisy Tuitahi passed away from colon cancer during Misi’s sophomore year.

“It was really hard,” recalled Misi. “She was always there for me at all my games. This is my last year so I’m doing everything for her.”

That Misi is playing at all his senior year is impressive. During last year’s summer camp, he sustained an injury that required surgery and ended his season before it even began. Getting back into football shape for his senior year has been hard, he said.

Unable to contribute to the team’s success on the field, Misi focused on developing himself as a team leader on the sideline and in the locker room. 

“Even though he was injured all last year he was just right there with the guys, being positive and mentoring the younger guys,” said Alema Te’o, Alta’s head coach. “He’s a calming voice in the program. When he speaks, people listen.” 

This year though, Misi is leading by example.

Flying around the field with his dark curly hair billowing behind him, Misi looks a little like a young Troy Polamalu, who also happens to be his favorite player (Misi wears the same number as the Hall of Fame safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers: 43).

“He was so fast. He would come out of nowhere and hit someone really hard. That’s what I like to do. Big hits,” said Misi.

It’s clear by the way his eyes light up while talking about Polamalu that Misi lives and breathes football. What does he do for fun when not playing football or working on homework?

“Watching film.”

It’s true. And it shows on the field.

On the very first play of his second ever varsity start, Misi jumped the opposing receiver’s route and picked off the pass.

“I just read it and made the play,” he said following the game (in which he recorded another interception and multiple highlight reel hits).

That itch to lay a hit on an opposing player comes from his dad, Siaosi, who grew up in Tonga playing rugby.

“(Misi) always used to get in fights during little league games,” recalled Siaosi. “But he’s a good boy now. He just goes to school and comes home. He’s a good student. I’m so happy with how he’s doing.”

As much as Misi has developed into a leader for his football team, he’s also a leader for his family in which he’s the second oldest of five children. After his mother passed away, Siaosi said Misi stepped up to look after his younger siblings. 

“They all work together. They moved forward and they all look after each other,” he said.

One of those younger siblings, Ray, is a junior fullback for the Hawks as well. Misi says his personal goal this year (aside from helping his team to a state championship) is to set a good example for him. 

As for goals after high school football, he hopes to get a scholarship to play football at the collegiate level. 

Whatever ends up happening, Misi will keep working hard to make his mom proud. 

“She’s my motivation. She’s why I push myself to do great in everything I do.”