Li’atama Uiliata is without question the breakout star of the high school football season in 2022. The Waipahu senior do-everything offensive weapon has 22 total touchdown, 6 rushing, 7 throwing, and 9 receiving. He is on pace for a thousand yard receiving season despite only playing 7 games at wide-out to this point. Uiliate did not start playing offense full time until this year.

“He played quarterback for us the last game of the season last year against Roosevelt. You could see how what he could do there, just take over the game,” Marauders head coach Bryson Carvalho told Cover2’s Alan Hoshida.

“I kind of knew but I kind of didn’t know that I would be this big. Number one thing that I’ve been working on is my character, trying to stay humble more often, trying to be a team leader more often. I feel like that really feeds off the team,” Uiliata said of his head turning season.

Before Uiliata was taking care of business on the field for the OIA Champs, he needed to take care of his responsibilities at home, caring for his grandfather during the pandemic before he eventually passed away early last year.

“With the lost of my papa last year, I just really remember that. I remember praying that I wanted to give it my all, wanted to give back. I knew that he had a big legacy behind him so I just wanted to follow him. He was everything to me. He was my mentor. He was my father. He was everything. He was my best friend. I could always turn to him if I needed anything. Every little thing, he would tell me about life lessons.”

Every step on the field is to honor his papa. Tama knows football is his ticket to giving his family a better life. In middle school he almost had the game taken away from him due to a calf infection.

“They said if we came a day later or something like that then they would have just cut it off, kind of felt like I wasn’t going to be able to walk, run, or play football anymore. This is the love for my sport,” Tama remembered, “All the struggles we’ve been through, I feel like built the way that I am, knowing that I came from barely anything and I’m going to have to work for everything I want, I need. Me knowing that I wanted and needed this sport jus to live, have a better life, help my family. I needed to get up on my feet. I needed to tell myself that I have to do this for them; I have to do this for them.”

More challenges will inevitably come on and off the field for the teenagers. Thankfully, Tama knows the exact question to ask himself in those moments that will help create the motivation needed to continue to push forward.

“Why am I here? I’m here to help my family, be there for my family. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d be over here. I’d probably be just another kid on the block, just walking around the streets. My parents, my family, all their hard work no support, telling me I can do this or I can do that, I’m just trying to prove them right and that they are correct always supporting me.”

Uiliata’s college football future isn’t clear at the moment. He has the talent to play on Saturdays at the next level. He is just waiting for his opportunity.