San Lorenzo High football player William Fukofuka couldn’t make the team when he tried out for Pop Warner youth football as a kid, due to a slight problem.
He was too big.
“He wanted to play football but they said he was too big,” says Fukofuka’s mom Victoria Turner-Neiufi.
Darn, don’t football coaches just hate that?
Well, it’s understandable, since he might have been a little too much for the other kids to handle. But once he reached high school, the coaches welcomed him with open arms.
“In his freshman year, he was 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds,” his mom says.
Fukofuka has filled out a little at 6-foot-3 280. The senior was the HAAL defensive lineman of the year. He signed a national letter of intent last week for a full football scholarship at Sacramento State.
Also in the ceremony in the Rebels gym, Renelle Traylor signed a letter for a softball scholarship to Bowie College in Maryland.
“It’s hard to get these scholarships – they don’t just hand them out,” said San Lorenzo High athletic director Tom Longaker to the students who assembled in the gym for the lunchtime ceremony. “We’ve had just four or five in 20 years.”
Traylor grew up playing softball with the Bobby Sox at the field by the Duck Pond in San Lorenzo. Now she’s headed for college next fall where she’ll play for the Bulldogs and plans to major in animal biology with hopes of becoming a veterinarian.
“I’ve always liked animals,” Traylor said.
Fukofuka intends to major in history and become a teacher someday. His father is Tongan and his mom is Native American and white, which he says gives him a well-rounded view.
“I like U.S. history but my favorite is world history,” he said. “I’m a mix, so it’s good to learn about everything.”
Fukofuka said Rebels football coach Justin Wright helped him with the scholarship by sending videos of his play on the field to college coaches.
San Lorenzo schools Superintendent Dr. Dennis Byas recalled a memorable game last fall. Fukofuka was angry about a penalty and got pretty worked up on the sideline.
“Nobody could calm him down,” Byas recalled. “Finally, his mom came down from the stands. She pointed her finger at him and told him to calm down.”
Her son calmed down right away.
“Then he went out on the field and knocked somebody down on the next play,” Byas said. “So he took his frustrations out on the field.”
Fukofuka has worked part time and during the summer all four years of high school, at the Cold Stone ice cream shop on A Street in Hayward. Some kids get a job to buy a car for themselves, but he brings his paycheck home to his mom.
Sounding like someone a little more mature than the average high school kid, Fukofuka explained: “I have to support my family.”