When Tani Tupou and Julius Tevaga steamroll foes on the football field, they could gloat.
They could pound their chests. They could talk smack. They could do any number of disrespectful, look-at-me moves that are commonplace in the NFL.
But Tupou (pronounced Too-po) and Tevaga (pronounced Tay-vong-uh), powerful juniors on the Archbishop Murphy High School football team, have a different style.
“I love those guys. They’re just knocking kids around,” Archbishop Murphy senior Alex Martinez said. “Every time I see them, they’re putting somebody on the ground and then helping them back up.”
Refreshing, isn’t it? Instead of boasting about their superiority, Tupou, a 6-foot-2, 237-pound tight end/defensive end, and Tevaga, a 6-1, 255-pound lineman, play hard and show respect. Sure, they enjoy making a great hit. But they don’t rub it in.
“They’re some of the best people I’ve ever met. Class-act guys,” said Martinez, one of several Murphy running backs who rely on the blocking of Tupou and Tevaga.
Their strong line play is a big reason why Murphy (11-1) is back in the Class 2A state semifinals. For the second straight year, the Wildcats battle the Lynden Lions (11-1) in the round of four. Third-ranked Murphy (Tacoma News Tribune rankings) and No. 2 Lynden, whose only loss this season was to Murphy, play at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Tacoma Dome.
Tupou — who already has a football scholarship offer from the University of Washington and is being recruited by several other programs, including Brigham Young University — and Tevaga, who also hopes to play in college, played well in Murphy’s impressive season-opening 34-20 win over Lynden. A similar performance by them this weekend would seriously boost Murphy’s chances of beating Lynden again.
Coached by Curt Kramme, Lynden is “a great team. We’re excited to go back against them,” said Tupou. “They’re defending state champs and they’re back there again.”
Even though they are juniors, Tupou and Tevaga have a senior-like calming effect on their team.
“We’ve got Tani on one side and Julius on the other. They give us yards when we need it and they really bring a quiet intensity to the game that builds confidence in the other players around them,” Murphy coach Dave Ward said. “Their teammates really admire their ability, their intensity and their work ethic.”
“They’re good people, they’re fun to be around and they take their football seriously,” Ward added.
Tupou and Tevaga, who both live in Marysville, are also best friends. They met in third grade and immediately started playing football together, sharing lots of success and bonding experiences.
“We consider ourselves cousins,” said Tupou.
Tevaga, who moved to Marysville from Hawaii, is half Samoan; Tupou is half Tongan, half Hawaiian. Besides sharing a love for football, they are connected by faith (they attend the same Mormon church) and culture.
Both linemen know a variety of cultural dancing styles and enjoy performing in public. Before the season they danced at a luau fundraiser at the Murphy campus in south Everett. They earned raves — and probably gave their coaches ulcers — with their eye-opening fire dance.
Tupou and Tevaga, who both earned Cascade Conference All-League first team honors on offense and defense, get similar enjoyment from dancing and playing football.
“For me, it’s pride, in a way. This is who you are,” said Tupou. “When you’re on the field you’re representing your school. When you make a big hit or a big play, you go, ‘This is for my school.’ You’re also representing your family.”
Added Tevaga, “Just like back home (in Hawaii), who you are is who you represent.”