(Here’s the original, longer version of the feature story about Kaimuki football player Chester Sua.)
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, shadowing receivers who dream of escape. He makes cutbacks that leave off-balance defenders grasping at the jetstream, launching into ridiculously balletic excursions to the end zone. When necessary, he cradles the pigskin 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 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. Or while enduring an interview with media.
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 one minute, five 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. Yet, he’ll stick it out all the way through while a writer recalls finer details.
There’s a politeness that comes with being raised in Samoa. It’s power through kindness. It’s also mandatory to everyday survival.
“Or else you’ll get lickens,” he says with a big grin.