From the Mountains to the Big Stage
By: Sam Kioa
Balancing academics along with playing for a high profile collegiate football team can be difficult for most student athletes throughout the country, but for Stanford University offensive lineman Brandon Fanaika, it’s more of a way of life.
“I’ve been playing this game and everything that comes along with it my whole entire life. At this point, I understand how disciplined you have to be to keep up with the game. I love everything about it and can only be grateful that I’ve been given this opportunity in the first place,” said Fanaika.
Fanaika hails from the small city of Pleasant Grove, Utah, where he reflects on most of his childhood memories up to graduating from Pleasant Grove High School. According to Max Preps, Fanaika was considered the top high school football recruit in the state of Utah in 2012.
Fanaika received scholarship offers from prestigious schools throughout the country during his high school years. Auburn University, UCLA, and USC were just a few of the universities that were highly recruiting Fanaika. Stanford University ended up being the final destination for Fanaika but his decision came at a high risk as well.
Fanaika made it clear from the beginning that he would only sign a letter of intent to a school if he was allowed to serve a two year church mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Stanford University just so happened to highly covet Fanaika and so they allowed him to serve his mission and keep his scholarship upon his return. At this point, he was more than excited to play for a successful football program that respected his personal decision to serve a mission.
Although Stanford was respecting his personal decision to serve, others weren’t so pleased to hear about his decision to serve a mission. Sport analysts throughout the country along with fans criticized Fanaika for his decision to give up football for two years. Many claimed that he wouldn’t be the same elite player that he was when it returned home while some even claimed that the University should take his scholarship and give it up to someone who wasn’t leaving on a service mission.
Throughout all of the negative responses that Fanaika received, one person that helped him stay faithful to his decision was his mother Navu Fanaika.
“I told Brandon that he needed to make stay faithful to his decision and to not let any outside influences affect his decision. Brandon has always been a good hearted young man and I didn’t pressure him into anything. He knew what he wanted from the beginning and Stanford just so happened to offer him the best option for his life and that’s what he wanted,” Navu stated.
Fanaika eventually completed his two year mission and is currently a redshirt sophomore playing for the Stanford University football team. One example that he’s been able to turn to is fellow Stanford teammate and Pleasant Grove native, Dallas Lloyd who also served a two year mission before enrolling into Stanford University.
“I’ve known Brandon my whole life and to end up in similar situations, I know that it’s something that only made us stronger. Now we’re both here playing for one of the best football teams in the country” said Lloyd through a text message.
Despite all of the scrutiny Fanaika received throughout his prep years, he is now contributing to one of the most successful collegiate football teams in the country. Stanford is currently ranked 13th in the country according to ESPN.
“I consider myself more than blessed to be where I am today. Because of what happened in the past, I’m stronger than I was back then and because of that I’m able to help out my younger teammates who go through similar situations as well,” Fanaika said.
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