FORT WORTH, Texas February 3, 2018 — It’s a real pleasure to see someone you’ve watched grow up make good. Several years ago my son was part of the same youth group as Halapoulivaati Vaitai and several of his family members. Big V was in high school then and he and his brothers William and Kevin were the stars of the Haltom High School football team.
They even made the local news.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai pronounced Hal-lah-poo-li-VAH-tee VIE-tie
Vaati, as we call him is a nice kid from a nice family. With all his success he is still the same amiable and humble person he’s always been. When in town he still comes to worship and is ready with a side hug and hello. He takes the time to talk people, especially the little kids. His former youth group raises money each year for their annual mission trip.
Vaati, Kevin, William, and cousins Eileen, Cinderrella, and Haley were all members of the group and went every year while still in school. Each June the young people in our church travel to help build things for clients who cannot afford to hire a professional. These kids have built wheelchair ramps, replaced roofs, put in subfloors, cleaned up landscaping, painted, and more during the heat of the day with worship at night. And they love to do it.
To help raise money for this year’s trip Big V recently signed a donated mini football helmet for a raffle.
In addition to being part of the youth group Vaati, Kevin, William, and their cousin Seini Mila led praise and worship. Seini was the music minister at the time and their music brought everyone to their feet. We were sad to see them go a few years ago.
Our church family was all delighted for him when he won scholarships from various universities around the country. Vaati originally planned to attend Texas Tech. But when his mother found a lump in her breast he chose Texas Christian University to stay close to home. Thankfully the lump was benign. But his course was set.
Some of us attended multiple home games; most of us watched the Horned Frogs every Saturday on TV. And when NFL came calling we all hoped he’d become a Dallas Cowboy.
As it turns out Dallas’ loss is Philadelphia’s gain. And the more I learn about this Eagles team the more I’m convinced the Almighty had a lot to do with it.
Dallas’ decline of Halapoulivaati Vaitai is Philadelphia’s gain
What a dream come true! Most young men who hope to play college ball never get close. Vaati was able to go to Texas Christian on a football scholarship but his main objective was to get a great education. It’s funny how things work together sometimes.
And while happy to play football for Texas Christian he never thought he was good enough to play for the NFL.
But there you have it.
Last July he fulfilled another dream when he married the love of his life Caitlin Diaz in Houston, Texas. He and Caitlin met on their very first day at TCU and dated all through college. It’s so nice to see so many wonderful things happening for such a humble and kind young man.
And now to play in the Super Bowl is the icing on the cake.
All the local news stations have been doing stories on him all week. His parents Takilivi and Shirley, as well as William and Kevin proudly spoke with the interviewers. Shirley even posted to Facebook a news video about Big V done by her nephew Matt Manukia, an anchorman for News 1 in Auckland, New Zealand.
And now to play in the Super Bowl is the icing on the cake
While I personally am not close with Vaati, my kids did spend time with him in Youth. I learned a lot from them hearing of the adventures and fun the always had. My daughter, due to Asperger’s Syndrome often had a tough time fitting in with her peers.
But she never felt that way in the youth group. It was the first place she ever felt 100% accepted without question and treated as an equal. For that this mother will always be beholden to all those who did so. And that tells you just what kind of young man that is Halapoulivaati Vaitai and what a wonderful family to which he belongs.
Getting married and going to the Super Bowl are wonderful dreams that came true for Halapoulivaati Vaitai. You’d think winning Super Bowl LII would be the best thing that could happen to Vaati this year. Nope.
Big V and Caitlin are expecting their first child later this year. And that’s the icing on top of the icing on the cake.
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