Akana proud to carry on family’s athletic legacy
As Tausili Akana peered into the eyes of the eager youngsters he was helping Monday and Tuesday at the Molokai High School field, he saw a little bit of himself.
Akana was helping his family put on the second Molokai Football Skills Camp, which was free for players ages 8 to 17 and drew nearly 200 participants on the tiny Friendly Isle.
“It was very special because … they don’t really get that experience and this type of opportunity to come out and showcase their talents and just come out to compete,” Akana said Wednesday via phone from Molokai. “It was super fun. I got to share my experience of the game, just give some tips out to the kids. I got to help them out and just show them what the coaches are looking for.”
Tausili Akana is the latest standout athlete in the Akana family, a rising senior linebacker at Skyridge High School in Lehi, Utah, who currently has 47 scholarship offers to play NCAA Division I football. He is a four-star prospect, ranked No. 60 overall nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings in the class of 2023.
Tausili is the son of Brandyn Akana, the former Molokai High School and Brigham Young University Hawaii standout basketball player and current head coach of Kahuku High School boys basketball.
Carrying the Akana name is something Tausili Akana does not take for granted.
“I’m very proud to have it on my back,” he said. “Coming from a very athletic family, so it’s good to represent it.”
Akana played football as a freshman at Kamehameha Kapalama in 2019, but then decided to move to Utah when the pandemic shut down high school sports here. He played as a sophomore for Wasatch High School for a team coached by his uncle Ry Akana in Hebrew City, Utah.
“It was (2020) on a Sunday morning, my dad came into my room and said, ‘You want to play football or do you just want to stay home, train and just wait it out?’ “ Tausili Akana recalled. “I told my dad, ‘I want to play,’ so he moved me to Utah.”
One year at Wasatch was enough.
“After that year, I wanted to step my game up, jump into a better region, to 6A,” Tausili Akana said. “So, just this past year I moved to Skyridge, just to get better competition.”
Akana currently has not made a list of finalists for his services, but he has official visits set for Oklahoma and LSU.
“I’m still keeping everything pretty open, talking to my parents about it,” he said.
Akana has been to the Friendly Isle many times — another uncle, Jarinn Akana, was the 1988 state high school basketball player of the year before playing collegiately at BYUH and the University of Hawaii — but this was Tausili’s first chance to share his football knowledge with the children of his family’s home island.
“I definitely feel blessed,” Tausili Akana said. “Because, you know, a lot of people look over Hawaii and I feel blessed to go out there and have the opportunity to showcase what I have and to showcase what Hawaii has — because Hawaii’s got a lot of ballers, too.”
Representing the 50th state, from the North Shore of Oahu where he grew up, to Molokai and beyond, is a big deal for Akana.
“I take a lot of pride in to that,” he said.
Thinking of the clinic this week, Akana was moved. He appeared to be a magnet for the youngest campers.
“I saw myself in their shoes because sometimes there would be some people who came out to Honolulu, put on some camps,” Akana said. “You know, I’d be fired up to go participate and learn some new stuff. … I’ve been here a lot.”
The Akana family stories Tausili has grown up hearing were “mainly about basketball.”
He gave up the game of basketball after his freshman year in high school.
“Probably my sophomore year, I was kind of not feeling the basketball anymore, so I just decided to stop playing and focus on football,” Akana said.
His decision to move to Utah hasn’t been easy the whole way, but appears to be working out quite well.
“At first it was hard, moving away from my parents,” Akana said. “But I would always tell myself every day, ‘This is the best for me,’ just because it’s pretty much preparing me for college. Being away, I feel like there’s a lot more opportunities out there.”
“The weather is a little tough to adapt to, but you get used to it after a while,” he added “… I’ve been skiing a couple times, but I’m not really a big skier.”
The camp on Molokai this week is something Akana Athletics, a comprehensive sports cooperative run by the brothers, wants to do on an annual basis, along with basketball and volleyball camps as well.
“I saw a lot of happy faces out there,” Tausili Akana said. “I had a bunch of kids come up to me during lunch and just ask me a few questions about the game of football and my experience. So, you know, I got to dig deep with those kids and just talk to them. It was really good. I saw a lot of athletes out there.”
Laakea Kalama, Akana’s cousin and also a former Kamehameha Kapalama player, is also on the Skyridge roster. Akana just arrived home last Friday and is slated to return to Utah next week.
“I’m supposed to leave on the 8th, but I’m trying to extend my flight,” he said. “And spend more time at the beach and with the family.”
During the camp, Akana took the opportunity to speak with Kimo von Oelhoffen, a Molokai native who played 14 seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl as a defensive lineman.
“He did tell me, ‘Just stay humble and just keep working,’ “ Akana said. “He said, ‘All the hard work’s going to pay off.’ “
Von Oelhoffen is definitely a role model for Akana.
“He inspires me a lot because it’s just like me, coming up from the island with dreams, and he made it happen,” Akana said, “so it makes me just want to drive so I can make my dream happen, too.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.