BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Winter in Hawaii means getting to do what I love best during cold
weather — snuggling in bed under warm covers while reading an
My latest find? “I Gave My Heart to San Francisco,” a new memoir by
retired NFL star Jesse Sapolu. I was able to catch up with the four-time
Super Bowl champion during a book signing event at Barnes and Noble Ala
Moana on Saturday. I met him once before while on assignment; he was
such a kind man back then and hasn’t changed a bit.
his own words, Sapolu’s new book tells the story of his personal and
professional journey to the National Football League. He said he was
encouraged to share his story with the world after the death of his
friend and fellow NFL player, Junior Seau, and the death of 19-year-old
Fred Thompson, an athlete who was a teammate of his youngest son.
Born in Western Samoa to parents who were ministers, Sapolu’s family
moved to Los Angeles when he was a young boy. In the book, he recalls
the mixed emotions he felt over leaving everything he had ever known
behind in Samoa, but also realizing the new opportunities that would be
available in the United States. In 1971, the Sapolu family arrived in
Kalihi, settling into public housing at Kuhio Park Terrace.
Sapolu said playing sports helped him adjust and make friends. He
attended Farrington High School and said growing up in one of Oahu’s
most troubled areas helped shape him. A desire to play college football
in front of his extended family led him to the University of Hawaii,
where he was a standout offensive lineman for the Rainbows and won
numerous awards. He represented UH in the 1983 Hula Bowl, and soon after
was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers.
During his successful 15-year career, however, Sapolu battled a
dangerous health condition — a torn aortic heart valve. While on the
field, Sapolu admitted that playing with that type of health condition
was dangerous and that sharing his story will help teach others to be
proactive when it comes to their health.