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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Kemoeatu brothers enjoy family reunion in Utah

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

It took playing football at the University of Utah to bring brothers Chris and Tevita Kemoeatu together again.

Tevita Kemoeatu (No. 96), top, is a 6-2, 294-pound backup nose guard and Chris Kemoeatu (68) is a 6-4, 325-pound starting guard for 25th-ranked Utah.

Utah sports information photos

The brothers, who were raised apart on O'ahu and Tonga, respectively, are reunited and playing for Mountain West Conference champion Utah, which plays Conference USA champion Southern Mississippi (9-3, 8-0) in the AXA Liberty Bowl today in Memphis, Tenn.

The game will be televised live on ESPN at 10:30 a.m. Hawai'i time.

Chris, a 2001 graduate of Kahuku, and Tevita, a 1999 graduate of Kahuku, are two of 12 players from Hawai'i high schools on the Utah roster this season.

"There is an enormous amount of talent in Hawai'i," said Utah coach Urban Meyer, who was named The Sporting News National Coach of the Year. "There are great young men who are family-oriented, and they bring a lot of quality players to the program."

Utah (9-2, 6-1 MWC) is ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press Top 25. It is the second time in school history the program has finished the regular season ranked in the Top 25.

The Kemoeatus are juniors, and their three years at Utah is the longest period of time they have spent together since Chris was a toddler.

Tevita, who was born in 1981, was raised in Tonga by his grandparents. In 1999, at age 18, he moved to La'ie to be with his parents and siblings — including Chris, who was born in 1983 and moved to Hawai'i in '86.

"My grandparents were getting old and we came to Hawai'i to be with the rest of my family," Tevita said of his move in 1999.

Tevita, whose first language is Tongan, said he knew only a little English and had to learn when he came to Hawai'i.

"It is kind of tough for me, but you just have to deal with it," he said.

Tevita Kemoeatu
Chris Kemoeatu
Tevita lettered his senior year on Kahuku's varsity team, joining Chris, who was a sophomore, for one season. Tevita then walked on to the Utah football team, eventually earning a scholarship in 2001.

Their older brother, Ma'ake, also played for Utah from 1998 to 2001, and is a defensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.

"I went up there (to Utah) because my older brother was there, and then my younger brother came up," Tevita said.

Chris was the Advertiser's 2000 State Defensive Player of the Year for Kahuku his senior year, and also played on the offensive line for the 2000 state champions.

Chris, who joined Utah in 2001, is a 6-foot-4, 325-pound offensive lineman. He was an all-conference honorable mention selection for the second year in a row. He played in seven games this season, starting five, at right guard.

"He's a legitimate NFL prospect," Meyer said. "He's as good an offensive lineman as any in the country. When he hits the switch, there aren't many people he can't block."

Tevita, a 6-2, 294-pound defensive lineman, is the backup nose guard, and has played in nine games this season. He was named the most improved defensive player for spring 2003.

"He's one of the most improved players on our team," Meyer said. "Everything is new to him. He's fantastic and he has a bright future. He just seems to be getting better every day, on and off the field."

Tevita said there is a "big difference in high school compared to college. In college, everything is faster."

The brothers, who had lived apart for 13 years, are roommates.

"It is really fun, some stuff I can help him, and he can help me," Tevita said. "Working together is really fun for us."

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2457.

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