On Saturday, February 11, 2017, Kalani Sitake, head coach of the Brigham Young University football team will grace the RootsTech stage as keynote speaker at Family Discover Day. Sitake, who is widely recognized for his success on the football field as a player and a coach, is expected to inspire the RootsTech audience with stories of faith, football, and family.
Sitake starred as a fullback for the Cougars under legendary coach LaVell Edwards from 1998 to 2000. During his playing days, Sitake helped lead the Cougars to their first Mountain West Conference championship in 1999. Following a brief stint in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, Sitake entered the coaching ranks. In 2005, he joined Kyle Wittingham’s staff at the University of Utah as a linebackers’ coach. Four seasons later, Sitake’s success earned him a promotion to defensive coordinator and eventually assistant head coach. In 2015, Sitake left the Beehive state to join head Coach Gary Anderson at Oregon State as an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. In 2016, Kalani returned to BYU to be their head coach.
While you’re likely aware of Sitake’s endearing personality and his ability to motivate student athletes, here are five other facts you may not have known about him:
1. Sitake is breaking boundaries.
Born in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, Coach Sitake is the first FBS collegiate head coach of Tongan descent. It’s a pretty impressive feat, considering that only two other people of Polynesian descent have ever held an FBS head coaching job: Larry Price at the University of Hawaii and Ken Niumatalolo at the Naval Academy.
2. Sitake’s smarts extend beyond the gridiron.
While Sitake is known for his defensive coaching prowess, he will be the first to tell you that he’s more than just a football junkie. In fact, as a student at BYU, Sitake initially majored in math before switching to English.
“I enjoyed literature and writing,” he told the Deseret News.
In an interview with Utah Valley 360, Sitake admitted to being something of a self-proclaimed nerd. “‘I know a lot of useless things, and I win Jeopardy most of the time, even though my siblings get after each other when we play,’ he says. ‘I used to read encyclopedias for fun.’”
3. Kalani is a gift that keeps on giving.
According to Kalani Sitake’s player biography on byucougars.com, the meaning of the name Kalani means “a gift sent from heaven.” Many BYU fans around the country couldn’t agree more.
4. Sitake appreciates the value of his family history.
Talk to Kalani for only five minutes and one thing quickly becomes clear: this is a man who appreciates his heritage and those who have paved the way before him.
“I’ve had to lean heavily on people to get this far, . . . my family especially,” Sitake told the Deseret News.
Sitake is quick to admit that his success in the coaching profession is the result of his father’s sacrifices. Only two weeks after his birth, Kalani’s father, Tom, moved the family to Hawaii where he hoped to pursue a graduate degree at BYU–Hawaii. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Tom and his wife, Eseta, divorced, and Eseta moved to Australia while Tom remained in Hawaii to care for Kalani and his three siblings. Eventually, Tom gave up his dream of graduate school and moved with his children to the mainland; first to San Francisco and ultimately to Provo, Utah. The move enabled Kalani and his siblings to have better opportunities to complete their own schooling. Consequently, each has earned a college degree.
It’s a sacrifice Kalani hasn’t forgotten. In his interview with the Deseret News, he said, “I am a result of a lot of people caring, and hard work.”
5. Sitake believes family comes first.
While football is something that Sitake does, he’s quick to express that it’s not what defines him.
“I’m a football coach, but I’m a husband and a father first,” he told KUTV in an interview.
Sitake learned the value of strong family relationships from a young age. As the oldest child growing up in a single parent home, Kalani often filled the role of protector and friend for his three younger siblings.
“He was the last to eat and the first to get up,” Pamrose, Kalani’s younger sister, told the Deseret News. “He was the one organizing everything and making sure everyone was OK. He didn’t care if he had the ugliest clothes; he just wanted everyone to be happy.”
Today, Kalani says he treasures his wife, Timberly, and their three children above all else.
“When I was a child, I cared so much about [football] games,” Sitake told the Deseret News. “I still care, but I care about my family more. It’s a game, and it’s important and I’ll give it everything I’ve got, but when I’m with my kids that’s my game there.”
Register for RootsTech today and don’t miss this opportunity to hear from Kalani Sitake.