A one-time kolohe, Paulay Asaita found friendship at Word of Life and a home at Saint LouisBy Paul Honda
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 11, 2010
He wasn't a kolohe little boy.
He was a kolohe big boy.
"In seventh grade, my dad took me out of public school. I was a bad kid," Saint Louis lineman Paulay Asiata said of his childhood in Kalihi.
Growing up with a single father and two siblings, Asiata found himself sitting in the principal's office countless times at Central Middle School. Transferring to Word of Life didn't change the pattern at first.
"I got suspended a lot. Bad memories. My dad (Taeao) would have to pick me up," said Asiata.
Now 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, he is one of the state's most highly coveted offensive lineman. The change in attitude came at tiny Word of Life under coach Joe Onosai.
"Freshman year was the best year. I had lots of fun. I got to know Juda (Parker). I really got to know all my friends," said Asiata, who had yet to play football, being much too large for Pop Warner weight limits.
He finally played as a sophomore.
"I took out my anger on the field," he said.
That camaraderie on and off the field came to a heartbreaking halt when Word of Life's school shut down this year. After considering 'Iolani, Asiata, who has a 3.0 grade-point average, followed Parker to Saint Louis.
Crusaders coach Darnell Arceneaux sees potential greatness in Asiata.
"He's a great kid with a lot of energy. He's enthusiastic about life. I like that," Arceneaux said. "He's done a good job of opening up and listening to elders."
Coming from WOLA's double-wing offense to Saint Louis' multiple sets, Asiata is practically learning a new language.
"He's got great feet and can really move. He'll probably play everywhere, at different places in different formations," Arceneaux said.
Playing defense is history now for Asiata.
"I hate defense. I really don't know what I'm doing. I like blocking people. The only way they can get through is through me," he said.
Arceneaux likened that mentality to that of recent Hall of Fame inductee Russ Grimm of the Washington Redskins.
"It's one man against another man, moving somebody against their will, going from point A to point B," he said. "Paulay really, really gets after it on finishing his blocks."
Asiata's old enough now to feel indebted.
"I respect my dad a lot. He made a lot of sacrifices. He was an engineer in New Zealand and Samoa, and he moved us here to start over," Asiata said of Taeao, who is head of security at a local hotel. "We always had to learn a lesson. He was always there, every situation."
He plans to bring his dad along when it's time to visit colleges. There will be a maximum of five visits, but he's received offers from a bounty of programs: Hawaii, Arizona, Boise State, Memphis, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, UNLV and USC. Nebraska, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Ole Miss have shown interest, too.
Asiata will get an extra boost on at least one visit when his oldest brother, rookie guard Johan Asiata of the Chicago Bears, comes along.
"My dad said, 'We gotta pray about it,' " Asiata said of his eventual choice.
Johan is straightforward with Paulay.
"He said, 'If you want to be a beast, you have to show them. Tell yourself in your mind, you're the best' -- not to be cocky, but just have confidence. I'm taking him out of the play," Asiata said.
Born in New Zealand, Asiata and his family moved to Hawaii after his parents split up.
"They got divorced when I was young. I met her three times (since). We came here when I was 5," he said, recalling the last time he saw her.
"It was at my brother's wedding, May 19, 2007," he said.
Without any extended family here, the Asiatas are extremely tight.
"We're close. It's just me, my dad and my sister (Angeline)," he said.
For at least one more season, the Asiatas will have the baby of the family close by, no longer a kolohe big boy.
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