Sometimes life doesn’t follow the playbook.
Punahou quarterback Stephen Barber Jr. was ready to carve up the state this fall when his family got unimaginable news.
In September, after struggling with illness for weeks, Barber’s 8-year-old brother, Noah, was diagnosed with leukemia.
“It first started off with him going to the doctor for different reasons. A lot of them, they thought it was him possibly having pneumonia, possibly a bad cough. Then eventually, one night he wasn’t doing so well, so early in the morning, they had to take him to the emergency (room). That day, unfortunately, we found out it was leukemia,” Barber said.
Barber still played this season. He played for himself to get some peace of mind, for his family, and most importantly he played for Noah.
But football took a backseat to family.
“It was super tough. Unfortunately, I had to miss four of five days of practice as well as school. Coming back eventually and having to catch up with everything was rough, but I definitely had to be there for my brother,” Barber said.
Noah was also there for him, and his heart-broken family, keeping his sense of humor for weeks during chemotherapy.
“He’s definitely the class clown kind of kid. He’s always joking, always dancing,” Barber said. “He just always brings smiles to people’s faces. Every day, he’s one step closer to getting better and one day he’ll be fine.”
Barber also played through the pain with injuries plaguing him on the field. Yet he was able to put up an excellent senior campaign, leading the Buffanblu to one of the biggest out-of-state wins in Hawaii high school football history against California powerhouse Serra High School, throwing for 326 yards with six total touchdowns including a 99-yard run.
“I had him every game, he would write his name on my arm. Just knowing my pain was nothing compared to what he was going through really just helped me push through it, kind of just ignore it,” Barber said.