High School Sports

He was stabbed by a classmate freshman year. That was a turning point for Fife football star Samuelu

Fife RB Malakai Samuelu recaps win over Franklin Pierce

Fife High School RB Malakai Samuelu recaps the Trojans' 42-27 win over Franklin Pierce on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018 in Tacoma.
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Fife High School RB Malakai Samuelu recaps the Trojans' 42-27 win over Franklin Pierce on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018 in Tacoma.

Toward the end of his freshman year at Fife High School, Malakai Samuelu was involved in an altercation with another student.

It escalated quickly, with the student pulling a box-cutter on Samuelu and slashing him repeatedly, stabbing his neck and back.

Samuelu was able to escape into the view of a teacher, blood cascading down his neck and back. When he was being carted out of the school by paramedics to be transported to St. Joseph’s hospital in Tacoma, Samuelu was still in shock, pumped full of adrenaline and not fully processing the emotional gravity of what had just transpired. And then he saw his dad.

“When they pulled me out and I saw my dad crying, that’s when it hit me,” Samuelu said.

When Samuelu looks back on that day, he’s mostly disappointed for putting himself in that situation.

“I just got caught up in the wrong crowd at the wrong time,” he said. “For me, personally, it was a big life lesson. You should never treat someone to the point where they feel like they have to take matters into their own hands.”

Fife football coach Kent Nevin said he was surprised the situation escalated to that point.

“The reality of it is that he kind of thought it was just a disagreement between two guys,” he said. “He didn’t think it’d go that far.”

Whatever caused the fight in the first place, for the Trojans’ running back and linebacker, it was a wakeup call.

“I think the hardest thing for me was to see how much I put my family through,” Samuelu said. “We’re a big Christian household. It’s not a good look as a Christian. … I just learned so much from that. I had to learn to get better, to just be a better leader, that I know I can be. I changed my surroundings, changed who I hung out with and I just made sure everybody I hung out with was there to help me be more successful.”

Nevin, who visited Samuelu in the hospital in the days following the incident, said it was a turning point for the promising football player.

“He wanted to make sure to surround himself with good people and do things the right way,” Nevin said. “That’s what he’s done. He’s really become a leader in our school and in our program.”

Samuelu, now a junior, is involved with the Pacific Islanders club at the school, has established himself as one of the team’s vocal leaders and is one of the top players in the Class 2A SPSL. As a sophomore, he was a first-team all-league selection at running back.

“He’s become the leader of our school and community,” Nevin reiterated. “He taught our kids dances, stays late and shows up early. He worked really hard in the weight room this summer. He just leads by example.”

And he brings a physical presence to the team on both sides of the ball. For Fife, a team “ground-and-pound” Wing-T offense, having that physicality is essential to winning games.

“Him and Junior Faualo, they’re both running backs over 230 pounds,” Nevin said. “They ram it pretty hard down there. They really bring a mentality to our program.”

The scars on Samuelu’s neck and back are a reminder of what happened that day, but to him, seem like a distant memory from a different life. And in Fife football, he found a community that stuck with him.

“I’m just thankful for the coaches, for all their love and support,” he said.

Fife opened its season with a 40-6 win over Foster in week one. The Trojans head south to face reigning 2A EvCo champion Black Hills at Tumwater District Stadium at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13.