by Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE –– In a spring unlike any other in the history of college athletics,
the University of Virginia football team’s position groups gather for virtual meetings several times
a week. The Cavaliers also meet periodically as a team, and those Zoom sessions start at 8 a.m.
On those mornings, running back Wayne Taulapapa and defensive linemen Samson Reed and Aaron Faumui
wipe the sleep from their eyes and join their teammates online. They’re home in Hawaii, where it’s 2
“It’s a little different,” Taulapapa said, “but it’s the situation we’re in now.”
Challenges abound for the Cavaliers as they continue to prepare remotely during the COVID-19
pandemic. Two of head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s players––Luke Wentz and Kariem Al Soufi––are home in
Germany, which is six hours ahead of the East Coast, and the rest are spread around the United
States. UVA switched to online classes last month.
For the team’s Hawaiians, “it was such an unprecedented time, I didn’t know how it was going to go,
to be truthful,” UVA running backs coach Mark Atuaia said from his home in Crozet. “I didn’t know
how our Zoom meetings would work, how we’d be able to still disperse information, trying to make the
best of the time that we have apart.
“But the commitment part, I knew. I knew that Wayne would get up, I knew Samson would get up, I knew
Aaron would. It’s just the way that our team culture is. Everybody knows that we do difficult things
together, and for those guys that’s it.”
Taulapapa and Reed live in Laie on Oahu’s less-populated north shore. That’s also where Atuaia grew
up. Faumui lives in Honolulu on Oahu’s south shore.
“I remember recruiting all of them,” Atuaia said, “and traveling six time zones to get to where we’ve
got to get to, it poses a problem, but when there’s a will, there’s a way, and if it’s important to
them, they’re going to do it. And it obviously is important to them how we do as a football
Defensive line coach Clint Sintim starts his group’s Zoom meetings at 6 p.m. Eastern, which is
manageable for Reed and Faumui. Taulapapa doesn’t have it so easy. UVA’s running backs meet at 9
a.m. Eastern, which means he rises a little before 3 a.m. in Laie. Moreover, he has a class that
starts at 11 a.m. Eastern.
“It’s been challenging, I won’t lie about that,” said Taulapapa, who started 11 games in 2019. “Being
six hours behind, it’s not easy waking up for football meetings. But at the end of the day, it’s
just about trying to make it work best. It’s not too bad.”
Atuaia won’t soon forget Taulapapa’s participation in the running backs’ first Zoom call.
“It was like Harry Potter,” Atuaia said, laughing. “He was in the closet, because he didn’t want to
wake up the rest of the house.”
And now? “My parents said it’s OK for me to be in the living room,” Taulapapa said. “I just have
to be quiet.”
Reed has a class at 11 a.m. Eastern on Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester, which means waking up at
4:30 a.m. local time.
“I think the beginning was really the strangest, having to shift everything around,” Reed said, “but
I’m getting into a schedule routine, so I’m getting used to it now.”
Like Atuaia and UVA offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who’s also from Laie, Reed attended Kahuku
High, the local public school. Taulapapa’s family lives in the Kahuku zone, but he attended Punahou, a private school in Honolulu, about 35 miles away.
In Hawaii, they’re an ocean away from most of their UVA teammates and classmates, but it “does help
seeing everyone’s faces on Zoom,” Taulapapa said.
Faumui, Reed and Taulapapa each enrolled at the University in the summer of 2018. Faumui and Reed
were recent high school graduates. Taulapapa had spent the previous two years as a missionary in
Nicaragua for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Before he arrived at UVA, Taulapapa said, he knew of Reed and his family, but they had never met. Now
the teammates train together every day in Laie.
“We’re just trying to keep the gains we made when we were at school,” Taulapapa said.
Shawn Griswold, the Cavaliers’ director of development and performance, has sent workout schedules to
the players, whose access to exercise equipment varies. Reed, whose father, Tanoai, is a cousin of
and stunt double for Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, is one of the fortunate ones. There’s a full gym in
his family’s garage, where he and Taulapapa meet at 6:50 a.m. local time.
“We make sure we bring it as best we can, as if we’re still back at Virginia,” Reed said.
Reed and Taulapapa exchange workout videos with Faumui, who says he’d be training in Laie with them
“if we didn’t have this lockdown.”
In Honolulu, Faumui works out with some of his former teammates at Kapolei High, including Myron
Tagovailoa-Amosa, who plays for Notre Dame.
“I lift almost every day,” said Faumui, who started five games last season, “and try to do some field
work if they don’t kick us off.”
Neither Taulapapa nor Reed lives far from the beach, and they often run on the sand.
“There’s a couple spots I suggested to them,” Atuaia said. “There’s a couple sand dunes that we used
to run back in the day, and Wayne was telling me that they’ve started going over there, so it’s
Early bed times have become the norm for Reed, Faumui and Taulapapa.
“It’s been pretty challenging for me,” Faumui said, “just with the time difference being six hours
behind. I’ve got to readjust my schedule sometimes so I can go to meetings, go to classes, and I’ll
try to work out afterwards.”
Taulapapa said: “You just try to get as much sleep as you can and fit in those daily naps and try to
Staying productive so far from Charlottesville can be “kind of hard,” Taulapapa said, “because in
Hawaii you always feel like you’re in a relaxed state. Switching from relaxation mode into an actual
work mode and school mode is the most important thing for me now. I think it is a challenge, but at
the end of the day we’re getting through, going to sleep a little earlier to wake up earlier, and
trying to manage everything’s that going on.
“Of course it’s been different, but Coach Bronco said we have to be doing the most work in the
Coastal [Division] right now of any team, so we’re trying to put that into our daily lives and get
Atuaia has full confidence in the Hawaii crew.
“I know if we tell ‘em to jump, just because of the type of young men they are, they’re going to say,
‘How high?’ ” Atuaia said. “And when we ask them to do voluntary things, we know it’s going to get
done, because we know the type of young men they are and the choices that they make. That’s the
reason why we selected them to be a part of our team.”