By Steve Uyehara – bio | email
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Opponents, friends and teammates all pause to remember Hawaii football great Mosi Tatupu, the first Samoan-American honored as an NFL All-Star. A standout at Punahou, Southern California and for 13 seasons with the New England Patriots, Tatupu died Tuesday night at a Massachusetts hospital of an apparent heart attack. He was 54.
"People would try to figure out, how can this guy be a sophomore and be so good? People would question, where's his birth certificate, and what's going on with this guy?" said Mike Perkins, who as a player for Kamehameha, faced off against Tatupu, who played for Punahou.
Even his opponents agree, he was that good.
Mosi Tatupu started for the Buffanblu as a sophomore, and went on to set the state career rushing record. A record that stood for 17 seasons. In fact, he excelled at everything he played.
As a Babe Ruth all-star for Punahou, Tatupu took his team to the regionals in Mexico and then on to the World Series.
"When we tried to come out of Mexico in 1970 they, the customs actually stopped the cars and made him come out because they thought he may have been a Mexican national trying to cross over illegally. But I had his birth certificate from American Samoa" said former coach Pal Eldridge.
So he wasn't technically a man amongst boys, but he sure played like it. It was obvious that football was his bread and butter, and it seemed just about every college program came calling.
"These kind of athletes, they're special. There's an intensity around them. There's just that strength that just sort of comes out of them. It's infectious. You want to become part of that. That's what I would say. He was very intense, very passionate about what he did" said KGMB-KHNL general manager Rick Blangiardi, a former UH football recruiter.
As a fullback Tatupu helped lead USC to a national title in 1974 and was the team's offensive player of the year. And he was named the Trojans most inspirational player in 1977.
In 1986 he became the first player from American Samoa to play in the NFL Pro Bowl, but success never got to his head.
"He wasn't a showboat. He wasn't a hotdog. He just tried to beat you. In football, he'd hit you. You'd know you'd been hit by a truck, right? He was just a nice, well-rounded, down-to-earth kinda guy" said Eldridge.
And Hawaii was always home for Mosi. Just last year he returned for the funeral of his football coach David Eldridge and spent time with old friends.
"It was great to see him. He was happy, cheerful, in great shape. So to hear this last night was again shocking" said friend Kale Ane.
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