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Football Lakewood

FEATURE: Jay Tauala-Harris Changing For The Better With Lakewood Football

The562’s coverage of football in 2023-24 is sponsored in part by the MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center Foundation and Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Foundation.

The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.

Like an old ship captain being moved to a job in the engine room, Jay Tauala-Harris wasn’t happy when he went from quarterback to lineman in Pop Warner football.

“My first time playing guard I was kind of upset because I wanted the ball in my hands,” Tauala-Harris said. “But I grew up and adapted. I had to grow into a team player. I couldn’t be selfish and bring the team down. I had to develop that mindset. It’s not for me, it’s for the team.”

That mindset has turned Tauala-Harris into a one of Lakewood’s senior team captains, a San Jose State commit and a great older brother.

“Now that he’s more mature he looks out for his siblings” Vanessa Tauala-Harris said of her oldest son. “He’s always taking care of them. He’s the best big brother someone can have.”

Tauala-Harris always looked like the older sibling as the tallest kid in his grade while playing youth sports, but his athleticism was undeniable. That’s how he ended up being a quarterback, and that’s also how he ended up being a moving piece for his coaches— in high school and beyond.

“We love Jay Tauala-Harris, and college football programs do as well,” Lakewood coach Justin Utupo said. “They love the way he moves and his position flexibility. He has the footwork, strength and size to play all five (offensive line) spots at the next level, and he also could play on the defensive line.”

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We talked to Tauala-Harris this week about that position change and more…

Question: So you came to a new school at Lakewood High, how did you feel as a freshman?

Answer: Before I enrolled I had never been on campus, so everything was new. I was super nervous. I didn’t know what I was, or where I would be placed. I was just trying to get in where I could fit in.

Q: So for football you played multiple positions again?

A: I played tight end and defensive tackle my freshman year, sophomore year I was just a defensive tackle and then my junior year is when I moved to offensive line as well.

Q: What was it like learning yet another position?

A: It was hell. I didn’t know what I was doing. Trying to perfect the tackle position is hard. It’s the footwork. You have to be precise. You can’t take plays off or be lazy. It’s trying to have perfection.

Q: What drills did you do to learn the tackle position?

A: Trying to learn to prefect the kick-step is very hard because you’re moving backwards and in your mind all you want to do is move forward. I used to walk around my house doing drills. I’d walk around the house doing kick steps and run blocks. I was just trying to get it in whenever I could. But moving to offensive line is one of the best blessings in my life.

Q: It also got you attention from San Jose State and other schools, right?

A: Playing in college was always a goal of mine, I was just surprised how early it started after my sophomore year. They didn’t know I was playing a new position, but most of the (interested college teams) like it because of my athleticism. San Jose State was the first school to believe in me. They were the first to reach out and offer. They wanted me and loved me. They were very consistent, and were always reaching out making sure I’m good.

Q: As a senior captain you lead the entire team, but you also get to mentor your younger brother Jayshaun, who followed your footsteps by moving from defensive line to offensive line.

A: When we were in Pop Warner we were always on the same team. Now this may be the last time we see the field together so we’re trying to soak it all in. I think about it during games all the time. Knowing I have my little brother next to me… that chemistry is unbeatable. It feels like we’re Batman and Robin. 

Q: What is your favorite class in school?

A: I like history, U.S. government… I just want to know why things are the way they are.

Q: Do you have hobbies other than football?

A: I love to swim. It relieves my soul to be out there and be on an island.

Q: How would you define yourself?

A: I am a family man. My mom is my number one supporter in my life. And the passing of my grandmother Lika (in 2022 three days before my birthday) changed me as a player and a person in general. It made me want to be the best version of myself.

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JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.