Hawaii Preparatory Academy senior Kamuela Gaughen doesn’t remember much about the first two years of his life. All he knows that it was not a healthy situation for him or his sisters.

At the age of 2, Gaughen was adopted by Kiaka and Dorothy Gaughen, along with his sister, Alaynia.

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“I’ve never met my father. I’ve met my mom once,” Kamuela Gaughen told KHON2’s Alan Hoshida. Eventually, I’m gonna meet my dad, and I’ll meet him through football.”

Years later, he would come to learn of the pain of the suffering he witnessed but didn’t absorb.

“Coming from my sisters, the ones that I love, I want to just protect and take care, kind of puts weight down on me,” Kamuela said. “You always just want to be there for them because of what they go though in their head every single day.”

Kamuela’s current parents show him tough love at times. Although he doesn’t like it at first, he understands it’s coming from a place of care.

“My mom, my mom is strict, but I love her for that. Because if she wasn’t, I don’t think I would be here playing football, dedicating myself to a team,” he said. “My dad, we always argue all the time. Sometimes I don’t feel like he’s helping me out, but then I get to my room, I contemplate what he’s telling me and stuff and the next day I go and do it, it’s the best day I ever had because I followed these things. I’m so happy that I know these guys and be a part of this family.”

Standing at an even 6 feet with a 215-pound frame, Gaughen plays middle linebacker, running back on occasion, and offensive line. Although he’s more undersized than your typical O-lineman, lessons learned from the past help him thrive at the position.

“Growing up with stories like that, then you become an O-lineman, it’s just like, right behind you is your quarterback, your dad,” he said. “Behind you, you got your running back, your brother. What are you gonna do? You’re gonna block for them so you don’t get hurt. To me, that’s a family right there.”

Gaughen’s past helps him become one of the protectors of HPA’s team. He’s also one of Ka Makani’s biggest inspirations and leaders.

“What he came from and where he’s at now, that’s perseverance and that’s dedication and that’s inspiring to me,” HPA head coach Kaluka Maiava said. “To me, he’s younger than me but he doesn’t realize he inspires guys younger than him older than him. Our team is very fortunate to have a guy like him on our team and he’s infectious. Every team needs a guy like Kamuela Gaughen.”

Added Gaughen: “It’s just something that you can look upon and just say, ‘I may not have that,’ you may have worse problems than me, but the only thing that you need to know is no matter how much times we get knocked down, it’s how much times you can get back up. It might be hard getting up, but ask someone. Ask someone for help. That’s how you get up. That’s how you work together and get up no matter what. No matter how much pain or anything. You’re just gonna have to find a way to go through it.”