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Sione Kauhi's religious mission puts dream of playing college football on hold

Former Wilsonville star football player hopes to play college football in 2015.


Photo Credit: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - Sione Kauhi drags a Parkrose player to the ground while playing defensive end for the Wildcats two years ago.

After lending his hand to the rugged streets of south Phoenix for five months, former Wilsonville football star Sione Kauhi couldn’t help but feel his dream of Division 1 football fumbling off the crevices of his fingertips.

Thoughts of a football career that could’ve been and a God that was putting him at a crossroad between his service and his passion crept to the top of his mind.

“I felt like God was punishing me, making me chose between serving him and accomplishing my dream,” Kauhi said.

Kauhi, a 2012 graduate who starred as a defensive end and tight end for the Wildcats, knew from a young age that after he finished high school, he would serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Initially, the decision was a no-brainer. He believed it would strengthen his connection with God and help him develop from a boy to a man.

However, the young Kauhi didn’t envision himself becoming a highly touted football player and receiving scholarship offers as early as his sophomore year in high school.

Kauhi pursued the recruiting route until the beginning of his senior year to test the waters and establish relationships with coaches. Though he received more offers from Oregon State, Washington State and Utah State, he never had the intention of inking a letter of intent.

Kauhi’s favorite part of being recruited was talking with former Oregon Ducks and current Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.

“Talking to Chip Kelly was a dream come true. I was always a Duck fan. I loved Chip’s attitude, coaching style and the team,” Kauhi said.

Kauhi believes he would’ve received a scholarship offer from Kelly, but with the mission in sight, his connection with the college football world dissipated.

Kauhi’s mission began in December of 2012 and will end in November of this year.

His everyday routine, which lasts from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., includes studying the bible and the book of Mormon and several rounds of promoting the church in the community. And in the community is where danger has reared its ugly head.

“Our main purpose is to talk to people about Jesus Christ and work with addicts. We see a lot of crazy things,” he said.

Kauhi once had a gun pointed at his head by a guy who earlier requested help at his home. On another occasion he was harassed and nearly robbed at gunpoint.

Though these occasions seem terrifying, Kauhi said he’s never scared or intimidated.

"Its just part of the job,” he said.

Plus, he said helping people find moments of clarity outweigh the sketchy times.

For instance, he helped prevent a woman from ending her life.

“She was addicted to all kinds of stuff. Life was gong down hill fast. At one point she decided it was time to commit suicide. We helped her to go from that to joining the church. Now she is the happiest person you’ll ever meet,” Kauhi said.

Over time, Kauhi’s doubts about his future began to diminish. Then a rare phone conversation with Neil Kauhi, his dad, lifted his spirits even higher.

Kauhi is mostly only able to contact his family via email, but his superiors let him talk to them over the phone on occasion.

When Neil told him college coaches were asking about him, Kauhi breathed a sigh of relief.

“I knew it wasn’t over for me. It gave me comfort that I was going to have the opportunity to do what I love again,” he said.

Up to this point, Kauhi has received a scholarship offer from University of Hawaii and Arizona State has shown interest. Plus, his dad talked with the Ducks who are encouraging him to walk onto the team next year. However, Kauhi plans to align with a team that wants to monetarily invest in him.

“At this point it only makes sense to me. If they are interested enough to literally spend money on me, then I will invest in them,” he said.

Kauhi is extremely grateful for his dad’s efforts to salvage his collegiate career.

“My dad is my hero. He’s done next to everything for me,” Kauhi said.

Other than playing a little pitch and catch with local high school kids every once in a while, Kauhi hasn’t played football since he moved to Arizona. However, he said he exercises every day and has put on some muscle since high school.

And the success of a former teammate has only made Kauhi hungrier to make up for lost time.

During his time at Wilsonville, Kauhi and Oregon football player Johnny Ragin were two of the best athletes on the team and were not afraid to take each other on.

“We bumped heads a couple times in high school,” he said. He added: “I’m proud to see him doing what he’s doing. He is doing what I’m trying to do and that’s taking his talent to the next level.”

Knowing Ragin competes for one of the premiere teams in the nation ignites a fire in Kauhi.

“Seeing what he’s accomplished only motivates me more,” he said.

It also triggers Kauhi’s more insecure thoughts.

“I have no doubt he’s going to kill it there. It makes me think, ‘huh, where would I be if I didn’t serve the mission?’”

He’s also motivated to make sure his dad receives the fruits of his labor.

“It means more to me to follow through with this dream knowing it’s just as much his dream as it’s mine,” he said.

Assuming he signs with a program, Kauhi will begin his freshman season of college football as a 21-year-old.

He said the experience serving for two years gives him an edge over other freshmen. He said he is much more mature and appreciative than he was in high school.

“Looking at it now, it’s has only given me more life experience and a better opportunity to succeed in college,” Kauhi said.

And overall, despite having to put his college football career on hold, he’s content with his decision to join the mission.

He said: “It’s awesome. You get to watch people’s lives change, including your own.”



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