Updated: Aug 29, 2019
Every kid in this country who plays sports has dreamed of making a heroic play on the world's biggest stage, the professional level. Whether it be making that last second shot to win the seventh game of the N.B.A. Finals, making that game winning catch in the back of the endzone as the gun sounds ending the Superbowl, or hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth of the seventh game of the World Series, with two out, a full count, and down by three runs, we have all imagined such heroic performances. Kainalu Martin, T.C. Lavulo, and Laipeli Palu are no different.
However, as these young men know, dreams do not come true merely by wishing them so. Known as Kai, Beastie, and Bubba to their friends and family, they have each achieved success both individually and as teammates playing together for the College of San Mateo Football Team this past season. During the 2017 season, Kai and Bubba both played significant minutes on a team that went to the State Championship. For the 2018 campaign, Beastie joined them as a freshman in the defensive starting lineup on a Bulldog team that made a return trip to the playoffs. As they themselves are abundantly aware, their success is the byproduct of years of hard work training, practicing, and studying.
The College of San Mateo has a legacy of success in the National Football League. Two of its coaches, John Madden and Bill Walsh, are in the Hall of Fame in Canton. A third, Tom Martinez, known as "The Quarterback Whisperer," was Tom Brady's personal quarterback coach. With 9 Superbowl appearances, 6 rings, and 4 Superbowl MVP's, Brady's enshrinement is a mere formality. So if others have carved a path from C.S.M. to the N.F.L., why not these three standouts?
Well, there is a natural order to most things in life, and the road to the professional football ranks is no different. The usual route requires passage through the following levels: pee wee, high school, college, and finally the pros. Sometimes there are additional levels such as junior college and semi-pro, but regardless of their number, at each level, an athlete must prove himself and then claw his way up to the next level. The next step up for each of these players is a four year, D1 college team.
Kai, Beastie, and Bubba have excelled at football at every level at which they have competed. In his senior year at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep, Kai started for a team that went all the way to the State Championship. At Serra High School, Beastie started both ways on a team that won the State Championship, and the Chronicle named him to its All-Metro Defensive Team. Bubba started both ways for the Burlingame Panthers in his senior year, and in a game against Aragon, Bubba rushed for 190 yards and 3 touchdowns from his fullback position. At one point in the fourth quarter, he carried the ball on ten consecutive plays ultimately scoring the Panther's final touchdown to secure the victory. He was named the Peninsula Athletic League's M.V.P. and a Polynesian High School All-American. Last season, the NorCal Conference named him its Defensive Player of the Year.
Although each of the three is an exceptional athlete, they have played football at enough levels to know that as one advances up the ladder, the degree of athleticism among the players also increases. They knew they would have to work harder and smarter to make it to the next level, but every athlete in their position knows that. They wondered if there were some form of training that would provide them with an edge.
Bubba remembered MAD Director John Murray and MAD Head Coach Eric Bringas from when the two coached at the Riekes Center in Palo Alto. Coach Bringas had trained Bubba from the time he was just in 7th Grade and into his high school years. Coach Bringas had also coached Bubba's older brothers, Benji and Manase, who both played football for the Bulldogs prior to Bubba. Manase went on to play at Humboldt State, and Benji played on the defensive line at Berkeley during the Jared Goff era. As a matter of fact, he and Goff were roommates, and Benji now works as a recruiter for Cal. Bubba got in touch with his old coaches to see what type of training they would recommend to the three aspiring D1 gridders. They liked what the MAD coaches had to say, and decided to train with MAD in order to prepare to make the jump to the D1 level.
Just as the threesome really seemed to be on their way, as they were beginning their MAD training, Beastie was dealt one of the toughest blows any athlete, let alone a young one, can ever receive. During the course of the 2018 NorCal Conference Season, Beastie had suffered a series of seizures. After, a battery of tests, scans, and exams, the doctors were baffled as to the cause of his tremors. However, until they were able to determine the cause of his condition, the medical experts were urging him to stop playing football and cease participating in any and all football related activities. For the time being, Beastie would have to shelve his dream of continuing his football career and advancing to a D1 college team. Kai and Bubba would have to continue their training without their friend and teammate.
MAD designed a workout regimen specifically for the post-season football players. Its workout intensities are regulated so as to promote recovery from the grueling season and to prevent future injury. Many football players train incorrectly in the post-season leading to regressions and injuries. Although the MAD workouts are carefully structured to protect the athletes, at the same time, they are also designed to increase strength, speed, explosiveness, and endurance. Additionally their MAD training focuses on competitive breathing, mental acuity, and mental toughness.
Both Kai and Bubba have excelled in their training and are thrilled with their results. Kai claims that his decision to train with MAD is one of the best moves he has ever made. Bubba is excited that not only is he increasing his strength, but he is also improving his running form and his functional motion. He was fired up after their last workout because at the end of the session, Director Murray and Coach Bringas put Kai and Bubba through a full body circuit, something they had never done before.
Coach Bringas is happy with Kai's and Bubba's progress, and he is impressed with their approach to their MAD training. He likes their intensity, how they really get after their workouts, and how they really get after each other. They like to push each other, and they bring a lot of energy to all the athletes in the weight room. Their enthusiasm is infectious. According to MAD's Head Coach, the two have slightly different styles. "Kai is very determined and has a great work ethic. Whereas Bubba starts slow, but once he gets going, he has an unbelievable motor. He not only pushes himself, he pushes everybody in the gym."
As the D1 hopefuls prepare for the next phase of their football careers, offers have already started to trickle in from four year colleges. Kai has received an offer from the University of Hawaii to be a preferred walk-on. He says it is early in the recruiting process, and he is going to wait for other offers. It is a lot like playing on the corner, you have to keep your nerve. Right out of the gate, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has offered Bubba a full scholarship, and he has decided to accept it. Many friends and coaches counseled Bubba to wait before accepting the Mustang's offer confident that offers would be forthcoming from schools with major football programs. Yet his response is what differentiates Bubba, Kai, and Beastie from most athletes.
If any of the three were to have an opportunity to play football at the professional level, they would more than likely jump at it, but that has never been their dream. Since they started playing at the pee wee level, they have imagined using football as a means to pay for a college education. They know that a good education is essential to having a career and gaining access to other worthwhile opportunities. This is important to each of them and to their families, and they do not want to burden their families with the cost of their college educations.
They all know that in the scope of a lifetime, a professional sports career is short lived. An athlete is going to spend a lot more time in the career he chooses after retirement from professional sports so he might as well start preparing for it now. They also know that a career playing in professional sports is fickle. Every year there is another crop of players coming along to take a player's job. A player can get cut, or the worst case scenario, as with poor Beastie, he can sustain a career ending injury.
When asked what they love most about football, they talk about the comradery, the brotherhood, the relationships, the shared experiences. Not one of them mentions a great athletic performance or a moment of glory. As a matter of fact, the only one who talks about specific games is Kai who references two games in which he was on the losing side. He loves the Bruce Mahoney Game against S.I. in Kezar Stadium in his senior year at Sacred Heart, and the State Championship against Fullerton State at Sacramento City College in his first year at C.S.M. He will always remember the energy among his teammates, the opposition, and the crowd in the entire stadium as being electric. Bubba claims that he really hates football, that the only reason he has continued to play is in order to finance his college education. When he received the offer from San Luis Obispo, he was thrilled. It is an excellent academic school, and that is what he is most concerned with. The Mustang's football program is more than big enough as far as he is concerned.
Unfortunately, Beastie has had to make the decision to quit football and to focus on dealing with his symptoms. This has left a big hole in his life as next fall will be the first time since he first laced up a pair of cleats that he will not take the field. Beastie is trying to focus on what he can do rather than what he cannot, and Bubba reports that his cousin is reading lots of books about his symptoms in the hopes that he can get a handle on them and continue his academic career. Beastie's medical misfortune has been tough for both Kai and Bubba, especially Bubba. Although Bubba and Beastie are actually first cousins, the two are more like brothers having grown up sharing a room in their grandparents house. The two have spent time together nearly every day of their lives, and Bubba is having a difficult time accepting how unfair life can be, particularly since he considers Beastie to be the superior football player.
In the meantime, Kai is waiting for additional offers hoping to land a full ride at some university. He continues his studies as a communication major which he enjoys. He is not sure exactly what field he is going to pursue post college, but he knows that his major will provide him with plenty of options. Bubba is pursuing his criminology degree, and he is looking forward to a career in law enforcement. Their dreams are of college degrees, successful careers, lives spent with their families, friends, and communities. Kai and Bubba continue to work out in preparation for D1 football. Whether or not their futures include professional football careers, all three friends know that there are dreams to be lived both before and after that time.