POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Oct 19, 2010
When the helmet and pads are off, Chester Sua can hear the music again.
It's not just the Lil Wayne riffs that filter into his ears. When all's said and done, he transports himself back to a small place on a small island that was once home.
He can hear the a capella of a choir, hymns locked in his heart and memories. He made the voyage from Sailele, American Samoa, just two years ago, but there's no choir for him on Sundays now.
Instead, he churns out his own music on the football field. He makes cutbacks that leave off-balance defenders grasping, resulting in ridiculously balletic excursions to the end zone. When necessary, he cradles the football with two hands and steamrolls unsuspecting foes with his 6-foot-1 1/2 , 208-pound frame for extra yardage, then helps his tacklers up.
There's more than one reason why the Kaimuki Bulldogs -- just 34 players strong -- have racked up eight wins in eight Oahu Interscholastic Association White Conference football games, but Sua is clearly a force of nature. He has lined up as a running back, slotback, wide receiver, safety, linebacker and kick returner.
"The sky's the limit for Chester. He's real driven," said Kaimuki coach Clint Onigama, who has also taught Sua in his Algebra II class.
Sua has also gotten reps at quarterback during practice, but it's far from overload. You won't hear him complain, even in the process of being one of Hawaii's top prospects.
If there's one fact of life that's constant for Sua, it's respect. He might not want to hear your recruiting pitch linger for 1 minute, 5 minutes, 30 minutes ... but he'll nod and take it. He doesn't want to hear about his accomplishments when there are teammates whose blocks made his touchdown happen.
There's a politeness that comes with being raised in Samoa. It's power through kindness.
It's also mandatory ... "or else you'll get lickens," he says with a big grin.
Tumama and Polini Sua's family -- there are seven siblings -- had moved to the Bay Area, and then Las Vegas years ago. One brother, however, was in Hawaii, and though Sua was a very good student at Faagaitua High School, it was time for a change.
He moved in with Naff and his wife, and thus began life in a whole new world, a place where he saw classmates and new friends with a different way of looking at life. One of those people was Mason Kualii-Moe, who wound up playing football and basketball with Sua last year.
They're a year apart and almost brothers. When Sua says he'd like to coach one day, Kualii-Moe doesn't even flinch. That day is well off in the horizon, but they share the same calm disposition. Both advise younger players to work hard and steer away from drugs. It'll be surprising if they aren't on the same staff one day.
Until then, Sua tends to business -- a 3.2 grade-point average. The senior has rushed for 956 yards (6.5 per attempt) and 12 touchdowns, and caught seven more balls for 98 yards and three scores while manning the secondary full-time as a safety. His biggest performance came in a 27-21 win over conference rival Waipahu, scoring all four of his team's touchdowns, including an 88-yard kick return to start the game. He ended the night by picking off Waipahu's Hail Mary pass in the end zone.
Sua and Kualii-Moe were best friends before they became statistical leaders on the field. Kualii-Moe, a junior, leads the Bulldogs with 21 receptions for 352 yards and four touchdowns.
To hang out with his pal on a quiet Sunday, Sua gets a ride from his brother to the other side of the Koolaus. Kualii-Moe, whose family has moved a time or two, lives in Kaneohe just a short walk from a string of fast-food joints. This is where best friends can chill.
SUA HIT THE WEIGHT room with a fury in the offseason, ran on the field almost every day. By spring, Division I college recruiters were wearing out the old asphalt road leading into Kaimuki's athletic department. Coaches from four, sometimes five schools per day visited.
Sua hoped to end speculation and all the on-campus visits by committing to Washington State over the summer.
"He wants to go somewhere where the distractions will be at a minimum," Onigama said.
Kaimuki is one win away from a state-tournament berth. They need to get past Pearl City in the opening round of the OIA White playoffs this weekend to seal a spot. A loss means an unbeaten regular season will have gone for naught.
Sua and his teammates are prepared in every way.
"Be humble. Focused," he said. "We set our goals before the season starts. One goal: a championship."
The sound of it makes Sua smile. It's almost music to his ears.