Coming in at 5 feet 11 inches and 200 pounds, Johnny Tapusoa played middle linebacker this season, filling a hole vacated by last year’s defensive MVP Ben Fonua.
“My season was alright,” said a rather humble Tapusoa, who’d rather talk about others than himself. “I just tried to make as many plays as I could. It was pretty much the same old thing as before. This past season I played inside backer. Our coaches wanted me to play sideline to sideline on the inside. That was pretty much it."
Tapusoa was the defensive captain on a team that dominated the state of Hawaii throughout the season.
“We were loaded all over the field,” Tapusoa said. “We had some of the best DBs in the state. When you’re fast and strong up front and fast in the backfield, it just made my job all that much easier.”
Kahuku head coach Reggie Torres saw Tapusoa’s exceptional instincts as a ball-hawking defender. So, in the middle of the defense Tapusoa went.
“I think coach saw my instincts and how well I anticipate from sideline to sideline,” Tapusoa said. “I think that’s why he wanted me to play Mike linebacker this past year. It worked out really well for the defense.”
The coaches at BYU are counting on Tapusoa’s instincts at the next level. It's those very instincts that made him one of the best run-stuffers in the state of Hawaii, as well as enabled him to drop back into coverage.
“Being on the field and using more of my instincts than what I’m told to do is something that sort of stood out to me,” said Tapusoa. “I just followed my instincts and helped my teammates out as best I could to stop offenses and win games. You know, you could put anyone at the middle linebacker position and he can do it. I guess I was just the lucky one.”
But it wasn’t just his instincts that earned him the spot at middle linebacker. Tapusoa is also a very vocal leader and passionate about playing tough, disciplined defense.
“I had to learn to keep my composure on the field, and making sure everybody’s doing their job,” Tapusoa said. “For the most part I think I did pretty good, but I blew up a couple of times out there.”
During the season, Tapusoa got into the grills of a few teammates.
“I think it was a good learning experience for all of us,” he said. “I think that was a lesson for me to learn, that I have to keep my composure on the field.”
For his senior-season performance, Tapusoa was named among the best in the state of Hawaii.
“I was selected as a first-team all-state for linebacker," he said. “I was also name first-team all-OIA [Oahu Interscholastic Association]. It was a real honor to be selected for both honors.”
In addition to personal success, Tapusoa also achieved team success. For the second consecutive year, the Red Raiders won the state championship.
“Our state championship game this year kind of feels like the one last year,” Tapusoa said. “I don’t know, maybe it was a little more special because I’m a senior now. It’s a good feeling though.”
Despite playing linebacker for Kahuku, Tapusoa also received some time in the Red Raider backfield.
“I most played defense this year, but when they needed a blocker I came in at the fullback position to block for Aofaga [Wily],” Tapusoa said. “I tried my hardest to block for him. He actually did really good this past year. I think he broke some school rushing records.”
Wily rushed for 1,730 total yards last season. Tapusoa said Wily likes BYU and that the Cougar coaches have been talking to him.
“He’s going to come out with me on my visit on January 17th,” Tapusoa said. “He’s going to go on his mission first, and BYU told him that if he goes on his mission first, then they are interested.”
Meanwhile, Tapusoa has mission plans as well.
“Yeah, I’m going to go on my mission first,” said Tapusoa. “I’m going to start getting ready after graduation. Then I’ll come back and play safety at BYU.”
When asked where he would like to serve, Tapusoa quickly replied, “Samoa of course! I want to go back to the islands and teach the people of Samoa.”