Throughout Jeremiah Laufasa’s life, the running back has heard about the importance of toughness.
Whether it’s the toughness needed to get through the defensive line on a football field or the toughness required to get through a life situation. Jeremiah’s dad, who he credits as the biggest influence in his life, always told him to do everything with maximum effort.
“That was the number one emphasis my dad had when I was playing sports,” Jeremiah said. “He said if you wanted to play sports, you better go out and play tough. Otherwise there’s no point in doing it.”
His dad, John Laufasa, knows what struggle feels like. He earned his son’s utmost respect for how he approaches life.
“I see him every day and he has a bunch of problems,” Jeremiah said. “He has a defibrillator in his heart. He goes to work every day and wakes up at 4:30 a.m., and puts in 10 to 12 hours. He’s popping so many pills just to stay alive, popping them like they’re Skittles.”
Jeremiah said his dad would wake up even earlier when he and his siblings were in high school, just to make their lunches. Jeremiah has an older brother, and a younger brother and sister. He was born in Samoa and then moved to the United States when he was 4 or 5 years old.
“I always tell myself, every time I come out here, if he can do that with all the one million and one problems he has, I can do whatever the coaches ask me to do,” Jeremiah said.
Football was far from the first thing on John’s mind when he was raising his kids, though.
Jeremiah said academics always were emphasized heavily. Before they started college, Jeremiah said he and his siblings had to maintain at least a 3.8 grade point average in order to play sports. Jeremiah said if he got two B’s, he would get whooped, just like he would if he didn’t do his chores.
“My dad could care less about sports,” Jeremiah said. “It was something we wanted to do and he said if we wanted to do that, then we had to hold up our end of the deal, which was grades and stuff.”
Jeremiah played other sports besides football when he was growing up. He played soccer, baseball, and rugby. He also ran track and wrestled. He said he also has tried tennis and golf.
He wanted to play many different sports so he could figure out what he loved, and football just happened to be it, he said.
However, when Jeremiah was at Central Washington University before he transferred to Washington State in 2012, he hit a crossroads. He said he lost his love for football and listened to his cousin who told him to try rugby with him at Central. Soon after, he thought rugby was the sport for him.
Jeremiah then received a call from his older brother, Corey Laufasa, who was playing at Washington State. They talked about the confusion that Jeremiah had over which sport he loved to play more, and his brother convinced him to try out for the football team at WSU. He made the team and rediscovered his love for football, redshirting in his first year with the Cougars.
Now a redshirt sophomore, Jeremiah has settled into playing in Pullman with the Cougars, drawing the attention of Head Coach Mike Leach.
“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” Leach said after practice last week. “He lost some weight, got in better shape, and really had a great offseason. He’s stronger than you’d think, faster than you’d think, and plays behind his pads real well, and catches the ball well, too.”
This all speaks to the toughness of a man who grew up around sports and, perhaps more importantly, around the driven people in his family.
“Once the ball is in your hand, just go out and make a play,” Jeremiah said. “That’s football. It’s a lot more simple than people like to think about it.”