The rowdiest conference of NCAA football, the PAC-12 is the entryway into the most competitive league in the nation, the NFL. While the Conference holds bragging rights for the most teams in the NCAA playoffs, it also hosts a few of the top-ranked universities in the country including the ‘west coast is the best coast’ Ivy league, Stanford. Some of the biggest names in NFL history played on the Stanford gridiron: John Elway, Richard Sherman, and Sione Fua to name a few. And there’s no doubt that many of the world’s most influential people once wore Cardinal red, including Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings (yeah, ya welcome ‘murica).
Yet what happens when intellectual charisma coupled with premier athleticism manifest into that of a young Tongan man? Luke Kaumatule is what happens. A local boy from the sandy streets of Honolulu Hawai’i, Luke pierces the west coast with a passion to serve and a vision to empower the Urban Islander youth. We sat down with the twenty year old linebacker on the ins and outs of playing for America’s dream college. Musing thoughtfully over each question, Luke reveals his passion for family; his personal playbook of success, tips on how to stay on top of ones game at all times, and what keeps him grounded and motivated. Check out what he does in an exclusive interview!
TWID: What high school did you go to and what sports/extracurricular activities were you involved in besides football?
Kaumatule: I attended four different high schools throughout my high school career in pursuit of placing myself in the best position of going to college. I attended Kapolei, my freshmen year where I was a tri-athlete. I played basketball and volleyball to help me train for football in the off season. After my freshmen year, I attended Island Pacific Academy for my first semester and Radford High School my second semester of my sophomore year.
Because of transfer rules, I couldn’t play any sports my sophomore year, so for my entire sophomore year I helped my Dad and my Uncles coach their football team. Everyday after school I would go to Waikele park and teach elementary kids the game of football. As a junior, I transferred to Punahou High School to finish out the rest of my high school career where I played both football and basketball. Many of my mentors at Punahou High were Stanford alum, which made my dream more of a reality. I also took part in the annual Holoku, a day where we’d perform Polynesian numbers and appreciate our Polynesian ancestry.
TWID: What other schools were you deciding on and what was the process like to get into Stanford?
Kaumatule: Like all other high school prospects, I received stacks of letters every week from schools all over the country. One day I gave these letters to my mom and as she was going through them she began crying out of nowhere. She told me that she never would have thought that one of her kids could ever attend a school like Stanford. My Mom lived in the Bay Area and even gave birth to three of my older siblings at Stanford Hospital, so that letter held a special place to her. Seeing my Mom’s reaction made me more motivated than ever.
Coming to Stanford was unlike any other process. Rather than just committing on signing day, I had to put in extra work. I had to get into Stanford through academics first before I could commit to being a Cardinal. I’m not the smartest person out there, but I am a hard worker.
TWID: Did your parents instill the value of college to you and your siblings when you were younger?
Kaumatule: I am the fifth child out of ten kids. We all are successful in our own ways, but out of the ten I was the first to graduate high school and go to college. My younger brother, Canton, actually signed to the University of Oregon recently and will be graduating high school early to join the Ducks in January. My younger sister is pursuing a volleyball scholarship and she’s only a sophomore in high school and my youngest brother Falcon, a freshman in high school, is probably better than me and Canton at football, combined (laughs).
Everything I am today is a reflection of my parents sacrifice. Watching my mom and dad struggle everyday just to make sure we had everything we needed is still my motivation to make it. Seeing my dad wake up at four every morning for work and coming home after dark made me want more for my family. He always told us that all he wanted to see after his long day of work was good grades. He always said that if one day he dies, he knows that we will be okay and would be set without him. I knew that if I was to go to college, it needed to be free education. So I did whatever it took to make my mom and dad proud and lead my younger siblings to making it into college.
TWID: How did your family impact your decision?
Kaumatule: My cousin, Matthew Masifilo played and graduated from Stanford as well. I remember one day during the Spring, we had a conversation about Stanford and he was telling me how his experience changed his life. To hear his story and know that I could one day put on that jersey made me more excited.
TWID: What is your typical day schedule like?
Kaumatule: At Stanford, my days start off with 7am lift and then classes right after from 9am-2pm. After classes, the team comes together to for meetings until 5pm. We have two hour practices and then I have time to relax and prepare for the next day.
TWID: How do you balance the life of a Division 1 football athlete with the life of a Stanford student?
Kaumatule: Its all about time management and what you do on your down time. I love what I do, I love playing football, going to school and lifting weights. If you love what you’re doing, there is never enough time in the day.
TWID: If you could share some words of wisdom to the rest of the Urban Islander high school boys who want to play college football one day, what would it be?
Kaumatule: Anything is possible through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you believe in something, fight for it. Don’t ever ask why we struggle, thank the Lord for the struggle and the opportunity to learn and grow. I never thought I could attend Stanford, my original goal was just to make it to college. Everyday I worked to make it towards that goal and it opened up doors I never ever thought possible. Hard work pays off. Live life to the fullest and don’t be ashamed to give the world all of your gifts God has given you.