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Player of the Decade: Toa Taua put together historic career at Lompoc High
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Player of the Decade

Player of the Decade: Toa Taua put together historic career at Lompoc High

Anyone who flips on Toa Taua's freshman highlight tape at Lompoc High will see a No. 35 in blue that does not look or play like a freshman. 

Flip on Taua's senior highlight tape and you will see that same No. 35, with the signature hair flowing out of his helmet, and you will also see a man among boys. 

That was Taua's career as a Brave.

He was varsity-level ready the moment he stepped on campus. In fact, Taua wasn't just ready to play on the varsity level his first year of high school, he was ready to star. Taua continued to develop at LHS and put together one of the most statistically impressive high school careers the area has ever seen. 

Taua's first game in a Lompoc uniform was on Aug. 29, 2014, when he had eight tackles in a 20-13 win over Arroyo Grande. He topped 100 yards rushing against Morro Bay in his third game. 

Taua, who played both ways for most of his first two seasons in Lompoc, went on to rack up 4,612 yards rushing in 47 career games. He carried the ball 501 times (averaging 9.2 yards per carry) and scored 73 rushing touchdowns. He scored 54 rushing touchdowns over his final two seasons alone.

However, if Taua chose to do so, he could've built up a resume just as impressive on defense. Still, his defensive numbers are noteworthy. Taua made 193 career tackles (138 solo) in his four years as a Brave with 16 tackles-for-loss and 8.5 sacks. He also intercepted two passes, taking one in for a touchdown for 76 career scores as a Brave. (He also caught a pair of touchdown passes as a Brave.) 

Taua is the 10th nominee for our Player of the Decade award.  

What's more impressive than Taua's individual statistics is the team success Lompoc enjoyed during his days with Big Blue.

The Braves never lost more than two games in any of Taua's four seasons, with three one-loss seasons. Though the Braves never won a CIF title in that span, they went a combined 44-5 and never lost a Los Padres League game.

Taua was named the All-Area MVP as a junior in 2016. He was a three-time Los Padres League MVP. 

"What separated him from everyone else were his football instincts," Lompoc coach Andrew Jones says of Taua. "His ability to make guys miss, his lateral quickness, combined with his physicality, made him special. Obviously, the football pedigree in the family helped as well."

Two of Taua's brothers played major college football and earned the Times' All-Area MVP honor. Vai Taua was named All-Area MVP in 2005 with Cabrillo. Vai went on to star at Nevada as a running back. Ainuu Taua, who played at UCLA after Lompoc High, was named the All-Area MVP in 2013. 

Toa Taua has also moved on to Nevada, where he immediately made an impact at running back in 2018. He was named the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year that season when he had 872 rushing yards. He was Nevada's lead back again in 2019, gaining 759 yards on the ground and earning Mountain West Honorable Mention. 

Taua has carried the ball 374 times for 1,679 yards with 12 touchdowns in his two seasons with the Wolf Pack. He also has 52 receptions for 387 yards and a score. He will be a junior in 2020. 

Jones expects even more over the coming years for his former star running back.

"I believe he has the lateral quickness to play in the NFL," Jones said. "His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is also a strength of his. I believe he will get a shot."

The remaining Player of the Decade nominees, chosen from Northern Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, will be released in the coming weeks. Taua joins the previous nominees, which includes his brother Ainuu and former Brave Lavon Coleman; St. Joseph linebacker Fenton Will; Nipomo's Nick Kimball and Matt Albright; Arroyo Grande grads Bradley Mickey and Seth Jacobs; former Santa Maria quarterback Blake Truhitte and former Santa Ynez receiver Gabe Prendergast.

Once all nominees have been announced, readers will have the opportunity to vote for Player of the Decade.

Player of the Decade: We're looking for the top player of the last 10 seasons

The sports staff at the Santa Maria Times, Lompoc Record and Santa Ynez Valley News is looking for the top football player from Northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County over the last 10 seasons of high school ball.

See who our nominees are thus far.

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