Hancock football's TJ Boone overcomes heart condition, makes it to next level

Hancock College's Kobe Tuitele, right, was one of nine Bulldogs to sign with colleges to continue playing football. Tuitele is a native of Pago Pago, American Samoa and has signed to play at Morgan State.

Kobe Tuitele did not exactly have it easy when he graduated from high school and went on to play football at Hancock College.

In fact, “I was not financially stable at AHC,” Tuitele wrote in his Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table scholarship application.

“Cost of tuition and rent were simply too much, especially for someone coming from the islands and I refused for my already struggling parents to help me,” the Pago Pago, American Samoa native wrote in his scholarship application.

“As a result, I found work as a maintenance person, scrubbing toilets and cleaning up after college students.”

Tuitele wrote that he worked late five to six nights a week, living pretty much a subsistence existence, “However, by the grace of God, I had just enough to pay off my college tuition and housing rent for two years straight,” Tuitele wrote.

He was the Hancock nominee for the 2020 NSBCART Male Athlete of the Year scholarship. He carried a 3.36 GPA at Hancock.

Tuitele earned his Associates degree in criminal justice. He earned a partial scholarship to play football at NCAA Division I Morgan State.

“My first option after college is to play in the National Football League,” Tuitele wrote.

“However, if that does not happen, I want to earn my Masters in the field of Criminal Justice.” It states in Tuitele's Hancock bio that he plans to become a federal agent — if an NFL career doesn't pan out for him.

The 6-foot, 285-pound Tuitele transitioned deftly from defense to offense. Before his time at Hancock, Tuitele earned the Defensive Lineman of the Year award, as well as All-Conference and All-State honors, his senior year of high school.

He was an integral part of a Hancock program that went unbeaten its last two Pacific League campaigns and racked up consecutive bowl wins. The Bulldogs did not lose a league game during Tuitele's time at Hancock.

The Bulldogs held off San Bernardino Valley College for a 38-35 win in the American Championship Bowl in 2018. Hancock edged Mt. San Jacinto College 14-9 in the Western State Conference Bowl the next year.

In fact, prior to the 2019 season, Tuitele listed his team winning the American Championship Bowl as his favorite memory.

Tuitele was part of an offensive line that allowed the Bullogs to rack up 415.6 total yards, 40.6 points and a state-leading 295.6 yards a game in 2018.

In 2019, the Hancock line helped a five-back rotation of DJ Whitmill, Eddie Battle, Terrance Raynor, Maurice Smith and Desmond Newkirk amass even more rushing yardage, 305 yards a game.

Whitmill finished 2019 as the leading rusher in the Pacific League.  


Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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