It's an honor to be compared to Mosi
By Mark Atuaia
Special to The Honolulu Advertiser
Former Kahuku running back Mark Atuaia writes about Mosi Tatupu, the Punahou star who died last week. Atuaia broke Tatupu's career rushing record, which stood for 17 years, in 1990.
While driving home from our football practice facility today, BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae asked me, "Sole, did you hear that Mosi Tatupu passed away?" I replied that I had not. It became quiet in the truck for a few seconds before Robert exclaimed, "Brah, you should have seen this guy play." He began recanting stories about Mosi that made him legendary in our state. Although I had heard these stories many times before, I remained quiet and listened to Robert tell them to me.
I find it difficult to reflect on my past. However, hearing the name Mosi Tatupu instantly conjured up memories of me proudly wearing a Kahuku Red Raider uniform 19 years ago.
For many folks from my era, it is easy to grasp my connection with Mosi. Yet, truthfully, I hated being compared to him. Granted, I was 17 and did not fully understand the magnitude of what my teammates and I had accomplished in 1990. We were able to break rushing records that had stood for as long as we were alive. In my limited knowledge, I thought the comparison between Mosi and me was valid only in that we played the same position. In my view, our single similarity and numerous differences were as comparable as the two schools we attended —Punahou and Kahuku; aside from the fact that both schools have football programs, they are opposites in every way imaginable.
When I played at Kahuku, I admit that a huge part of my athletic success derived from my ability to play with a gigantic chip on my shoulder. Because I grew up poor, I played particularly hard against those schools and players I felt had life advantages not afforded to me — which was most schools in the state. During my senior season at Kahuku, I ran the football fueled by that premise, and the results of those games are well documented.
Yet, the older I became, the more I realized my immature, adolescent thoughts failed to appreciate the overwhelming similarities that Mosi and I shared. His personal motivation also stemmed from his dire circumstances, and he worked hard to rectify his situation fueled by love for his family. He was also born in American Samoa. Although I was born in Hawai'i, my family moved to the former Western Samoa when I was 7, and during that move, I stayed in American Samoa with my grandfather in a village not too far from Mosi's birthplace.
Much of how I live my life today is reflective of the lessons I learned during my youth in Samoa. It is evident that the same was true for Mosi. His teammates describe him as vivacious, vibrant, and spirited. Many people say the same about me, while further commenting that it is sometimes to my detriment. Mutual friends, who are close to the both of us, have often commented on how similar we are in many ways; however, to refrain from disparaging his memory, I will leave the authenticity of those opinions to their original owners.
I can only speak for myself, and say that Mosi Tatupu's life made a profound impact on mine. I chased Mosi's rushing records 19 years ago and passed them. Accomplishing that feat, although exhilarating, remains lodged in my fabric for one seminal reason: I will forever be linked to the man that inspired the chase.
Frankly, as time goes on, you become apathetic to the honors, accolades, and praises from fans and peers alike. However, the work ethic needed to put you on the same pedestal as Mosi Tatupu is what remains with you.
From a personal standpoint, I wanted what he had. I tried to follow his lead and become a star player in the NFL. It did not work out for me like I had planned. Details withheld, I had lost sight of things that had brought me success in the past.
After much heartache, I wiped away my tears, got up off the floor, and began to re-employ the formula that raised me to my former stardom. Although in a different realm, in December, I will graduate from Brigham Young University with a Masters degree in Public Administration coupled with a Juris Doctorate degree in Law. Emphatically, my accomplishments are a direct result of Mosi Tatupu's inspiration.
Contrary to popular belief, great athletes do not sit around and discuss in great detail their athletic triumphs to anyone who will listen. The great ones, without having to say a word, have their legends grow by the words of others. Exemplified by Robert and me in Provo, Utah, and many others nationwide, the legend of Mosi Tatupu will live forever strong.
Ia manuia lou malaga uso,