Nanakuli Powerhouse Nathan Pele-Tukumoeatu Brings Positive Vibes
When last Friday’s OIA Division II first-place football game turned Nanakuli’s way in the second half, running back/tight end Nathan Pele-Tukumoeatu was a big reason why.
And by big, we’re talking really big. This Pele-Tukumoeatu kid, a Golden Hawks senior, is 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. Used sparingly in the first two quarters, he proved to be incredibly tough to bring down on the drive that put Nanakuli ahead for good with 2:33 left in the third quarter of what became a 21-3 victory over Pearl City.
Playing high school football, however, was not really on Pele-Tukumoeatu’s radar until the offseason, when he started to work out in the sport for the first time since his U-12 youth football days in 2017.
“Nate showed up at our first team meeting,” Nanakuli coach Kili Watson told Hawaii Sports Radio Network on Thursday. “I had heard about him a little bit, and he’s been committed from the start — in the weight room and during summer workouts. I remember some of the players were asking if he could come out last year, but it was already in the middle of the season and a little too late. And, oh man, has he grown so much and improved tremendously.”
Pele-Tukumoeatu is just one of the Golden Hawks’ offensive threats. Running backs Christian Asinsin and Allen Mahoe III carry a big load, and receiver David Kalili (29 receptions, 482 yards, 7 TDs) is another force.
Those three running backs along with quarterback Hansen Salausa-Kaawa have combined for 1,074 yards rushing in six games.
And although Pele-Tukumoeatu is not a captain, he is a born leader, according to Watson.
“During huddle or practice breaks that we call out together, whenever Nate does it, he will say, ‘Lead on 3. … 1, 2, 3 lead!’ ” the coach said. “He has a real presence about him and it’s infectious. He brings positive energy to practice, and in every game he’s had some pivotal plays. What’s great about these three running backs is that they support whoever has the hot hand and they all do such a great job.”
The Golden Hawks (5-1, 5-0) hold first place in OIA D-II, but a great start does not guarantee a great finish, especially with plenty of good teams chasing them.
“Our coaches tell us that no matter where we are or no matter who we are playing to always have that championship mind-set, and for us to look at every opponent as if they are champions,” Pele-Tukumoeatu said.
Along those same lines of Nanakuli’s overall mentality, Watson added, “A lot of our players will tell you today that they’re not concentrating on winning on Friday. First, they’ll say, they have to win today, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before they start thinking about Friday.”
The Golden Hawks are looking for their first OIA D-II title since 2014, when Kili’s brother Keala was the head man. They meet a solid Kaimuki (3-3, 3-2) squad on Saturday at the Roosevelt High field.
Pele-Tukumoeatu’s leadership abilities are also evident at Alofa Tunoa, the Christian church his father Tavita started when the family moved back to Oahu after a temporary move to Washington state.
“It started at our house, where we were for a solid two months,” Nate said. “And all glory to God, we now have a place in Kunia and people are starting to come. It’s getting crowded.”
Football is always something Pele-Tukumoeatu — one of Tavita and mom Tina’s eight children — has loved to do.
“I get out of the house and free my mind when I’m on that field,” he added.
And, according to Watson, the senior running back has been more and more curious about what it takes to move on to the next level.
At a recent practice, former Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Chris Fuamatu-Maafala was an invited guest who gave some advice to the Golden Hawks.
“Nate asked a lot of great questions, trying to pick his brain,” Watson said.
The best technical advice Fuamatu-Maafala gave, according to Pele-Tukumoeatu, was for the big back to lower his pad level when running.
“He said I was a very strong runner and to lower my body,” the Nanakuli senior said. “I do believe I run a little too high. He said that I can become a dominant running back. I take those words as wise and coming from a man who has done it all. Whatever he said, I tried to take it all in. He also said that we gotta play with discipline and that it all starts with God and ends with God.”
Looking ahead, Pele-Tukumoeatu feels confident in not only Nanakuli’s offensive teammates, but also the boys on the other side of the ball.
“The defense, those guys are ready for anyone in this division,” he said. “They’ve most definitely upped their game.”
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