If you’re a frequent at Bradwell Institute football games, you’ll see a player with an abundance of hair hanging out of his helmet lined up at middle linebacker for the Tiger defense.
Bradwell regulars will know that is the sure tackling Elijah Leiataua.
The Samoan-born 17-year-old senior has been a bright spot throughout the Tigers’ recent struggles on the football field.
Coming from the islands, Leiataua and his family moved to the states where he would begin his athletic journey.
First, he began playing soccer before he got his wish from his mother to play football.
“I started playing football when I was real young,” Leiataua said. “First year I got put into any rec games, it was soccer and I got so mad at my mother because it wasn’t football. Then the next year, it was flag football, and I didn’t want to play it. Football is pretty much where it’s at.”
The senior uses family and the miniscule factors to mentally sharpen his mind for gameday.
“I love hanging out with my family, so I go home and talk about the game and how I prepared to make and make sure that the team’s all good,” Leiataua said. “I watch film and do all the basic things that you need to start a game. You got to love it just like you love your family, watching film, and coming to practice. You got to love the little things so when Friday night comes, it’s fun rather than business. If you don’t love doing what you do, then why prepare for it?”
Speaking of family, Leiataua looks up to his uncles, who played at Bradwell.
“Those two were just dogs and they both came here so I’ve always grown up around Bradwell,” he said. “Growing up here, the only time I went to Liberty, or any other school was if Bradwell was playing. I never thought about any other school, just Bradwell.”
In the pros, Leiataua tries to model his game after Pro Football Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and fellow Samoan Troy Polamalu.
“Ray Lewis played my position and is a great motivational speaker and Troy Polamalu obviously because we got to represent.”
Leiataua has a scholarship offer on the table from NAIA’s Reinhardt University in Waleska that he’s mulling over.
“I’m interested in a lot of schools,” he said. “First of all, I’m blessed to have an offer from Reinhardt. They were my first offer. It was a shock for me. When they called, the coach was very relaxed and chill. That was very welcoming towards me. Because you expect them to make demands. It was great. They wished me lucked on last week’s game actually. It’s truly a blessing.”
He’s a two-time all-region selection, earning first team defense honors in 2019 and first team offense in 2020 as an ATH, since he gets carries at running back.
Leiataua didn’t make the defense team a season ago despite being the Tigers’ leading tackle getter.
“Truly anything like that is a blessing,” he said. “But the defensive things, that’s where I’m from. We’re hard hitters from where I’m at. It’s in our blood and who we are. Toting the rock is just something I’ve done since I was little. Give me the rock and I’ll get that extra yard for you. Simple as that. I’ll tell coach on a 4th and 2 not to worry about it. The game of football became a way of life. Anything that you go through in life, you could tackle with football. And vice versa. Anything that’s bothering you, let it go in football. Anything in life that’s bothering you in football, relate it to life. Compare the two and use it as momentum to get better and become a better person.”
A lot of tradition comes with being of Samoan heritage.
This includes the war dance called Siva Tau.
“Siva means dance and Tau means war, so you put it together and it’s war dance,” Leiataua said. “That’s pretty much our haka. It pretty much represents who we are as a person and as a warrior. It tells everybody to back up because of how great Samoa is and who we are as people. We do not play around when it comes to the Siva Tau. If we do it, it’s because we’re ready for you. It’s like a spartan mentality. We would die for who and what we believe in. I would die for who’s next to me. It seems crazy but it’s loyalty. It’s truth and how we live. Samoan culture is all love. We’re happy people in Samoa. Yes, we’re huge and intimidating but we love. That’s the most of all things.”
Outside of football, Leiataua has a love for music and serving for his religion.
“I love playing instruments and singing,” he said. “I sing in the locker room all the time. My teammates hear me and be like ‘Man, I didn’t know you could sing.’ Y’all don’t even know. I play the piano, the ukulele of course, I play the trumpet a little bit but don’t expect the best, and the guitar. I also love pastoring and preaching. I’m a part of the bible club at church.”
All he wants to do is to be able to supply the needs of others through life.
That’s why Leiataua has decided that he wants psychology to be one of his fields of study when he goes off to college next fall.
“It’s the little things that I love,” Leiataua. “It’s just things that I can use in myself to help others. My plan for the future is to go to college and I want to minor in Psychology. I heard when you’re already used to helping people out and giving advice, it’s very simple for you. That’s what I want to do to kick off my life.”