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Football Long Beach Poly

Feature: Long Beach Poly’s Jordan Malau’ulu Brings Energy, Hype

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 Long Beach Poly is sponsored by Bryson Financial.

It was the end of Long Beach Poly’s Tuesday night football practice, and the Jackrabbits were gassed. It was after 8 p.m., and at the end of a lengthy session the team had run for 20 minutes in helmets and pads, conditioning for Friday’s game against Compton–but also for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs that will start in two weeks.

Senior wide receiver Jordan Malau’ulu was the first skill player to finish each round of gassers, and as his teammates began to wind down after their long run, he started yelling. “We’re not getting ready for Compton, we’re getting ready for Division 1!” he yelled, echoing the recent words of his head coach, Stephen Barbee. The Fresno State commit was smiling when he said it, but he wasn’t joking. “Let’s go! Let’s do another one.”

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It’s hard to say what’s more surprising–that the team got to their feet and did another round of sprints, or that Malau’ulu is charming enough that nobody jumped him after practice for the suggestion.

That’s the particular quality of the senior receiver, who has been an explosive playmaker for Poly both as a wideout and in special teams for the last few years. Barbee said that Malau’ulu has been a joy to coach, particularly because of his joy.

“It’s his energy and how much he loves his teammates,” he said. “He’s high energy all the time. Whether it’s on the field, whether it’s on the baseball diamond here, he leads all the chants for them. He loves being a Poly student, he loves the family atmosphere, he loves the brotherhood. He’s a superstar athlete and he embraces and accepts everybody.”

There aren’t many high school athletes that have “star power,” but Barbee makes a good point about Malau’ulu, who has been a standout on the football field and baseball diamond. He’s been featured in Nike Football ads on TV and social media, as well as NFL Flag Football commercials. His social media profiles have tens of thousands of followers, which have earned him plenty of jokes from coaches and family members.

“Oh yeah, at family functions it’s always, ‘Hey Tik Tok boy,’ they’re always getting on me for that,” laughed Malau’ulu.

The popularity of his Tik Tok account (with 80,000 followers) has led to some funny moments. When Poly traveled to Hawaii this year for their season opener, some of the players on Konawaena’s team recognized Malau’ulu and asked him for pictures. And he’s been recognized and stopped while at the grocery store or airport with his family.

“It’s funny, yeah, and my family doesn’t all understand what it’s all about,” he said. “But it’s also a blessing because I have a platform to spread the gospel or to be funny or talk about sports. If people are scrolling through my feed and see me having fun then maybe they want to have fun or play sports one day too.”

Some football coaches can get grumpy about athletes having a big social media presence, but Barbee isn’t one of them. He said he loves that Malau’ulu has been able to be such a positive force, whether it’s on Instagram or in the locker room.

“We have managers on our team and they sit next to him in the team meetings, he makes everyone feel like they’re the most important person on the team,” said Barbee. “It speaks volumes of his upbringing, how he treats people. He wears his heart on his sleeve, he loves being a part of this program and I love him being here.”

Malau’ulu said his outgoing personality comes from being a middle child, with older sisters who played softball at UCLA and Mississippi State, and a younger brother who’s an up-and-coming youth quarterback.

“I always got picked on but we always had fun,” he said. “I really think every day in football is a blessing and a privilege. My freshman year, COVID took it away from me. So it’s just like, why dread doing gassers when you could have fun while doing them? I just always try to see the positive and not the negative.”

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.