Polo Hafoka Manukainiu
Freshman football player 'gentle giant' with 'big heart'
Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 00:09
Polo Hafoka Manukainiu was described by those close to him as a gentle giant who loved football, Texas A&M and — above all else — family.
Manukainiu, a freshman recreation, park, and tourism sciences major, died in a car accident July 29 along with his younger brother and a friend.
David Eteaki, Manukainiu’s uncle, said Polo was simply a “happy kid” who wanted to receive an education and ultimately gain a place in the National Football League.
“He comes from a household of nine siblings and his ultimate goal was to find a way to help his parents and young siblings by bettering himself,” Eteaki said. “He wanted to set his goal as trying to become an NFL player one day and getting his education while playing
Polo centered his life around his family and community, Eteaki said. During his breaks from school, Eteaki said Polo would frequently volunteer with youth camps and find time to spend with his mother, stepfather and siblings.
Manukainiu was drawn to Texas A&M not only because of the core values which mirrored his own, but because of the Polynesian athletes he grew up watching play for
“He grew up idolizing Polynesian football players at Texas A&M,” Eteaki said. “He saw how the lifestyle of the Aggie family was and that made him want to be an Aggie himself. It’s all he ever talked about.”
Manukainiu was always a big person with a big heart.
“He’s always been tall,” Eteaki said. “People are attracted to him because of his size and height.”
But even with the attention that his size and athletic skill attracted, Manukainiu didn’t often speak of himself or accomplishments,” said Chris Taualli, Manukainiu’s cousin.
“He was very quiet, but when he would talk, he would have more interest in another person than himself,” Taualli said.
Taualli said Manukainiu was “very passionate about football.” Manukainiu’s decision to commit to Texas A&M was largely based on the quality of the business school, Taualli said, and the overall business-like attitude of the Texas A&M
Taualli said Manuakiniu was born when he was a junior in high school and he played a large part in raising Manukainiu.
“He was like my own child,” Taualli said. “I loved seeing him grow up to become the young man