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
Jeremiah Taufi has played a lot of different positions for a lot of good football teams, and now he’s using that experience to help lead the St. Anthony offensive and defensive lines.
“He is an awesome kid with a great attitude who works really hard,” St. Anthony coach Raul Lara said of Taufi. “When he (transferred in from St. John Bosco this year) he kind of elevated everybody else. A lot of my guys are inexperienced, they never played Pop Warner, and he helped us with that for sure.”
The 5’11” 239-pound Taufi played his freshman year at Bosco before coming to St. Anthony where he can play with his Belmont Shore Rugby teammates.
“I knew I still had to prove myself,” Taufi said of transferring. “I was still a nobody in my mind, so I was just grinding hard to really earn a spot.”
After sitting out the required six games to start the season, Taufi has made a huge impact on the offensive and defensive lines. The sophomore can play all three interior positions on the offensive line and can play anywhere on the defensive line.
It’s no coincidence the Saints are on a four-game winning streak since Taufi’s arrival on the field. They’ll try to keep their season going tonight at St. Pius X-St. Matthias in the CIF Southern Section Division 8 quarterfinals.
“It was really frustrating (to sit out), but I took that time for my mental game, and in practice I was really just trying to dial in with the program I’m with,” Taufi said.
That program run by Lara has also helped Taufi mature into a leader on and off the field.
“It’s a great program, and they build you up as a person besides this football stuff,” Taufi said. “It’s a lot of dedication and pride in his coaching. (Lara) really cares for these kids, beyond sports. It’s high-caliber coaching.”
“That’s always been my biggest thing, using football to teach these young men to become great adults in the community,” Lara said. “That’s the way I was brought up by Don Norford, Merle Cole, Jerry Jaso and Jim Barnett… Obviously this game teaches a lot of life skills, faith, hard work and dedication. I’m just giving the lessons I got to our kids. We teach these young men that it’s not all about football, it’s about life skills within this game. Hopefully when they leave the game they understand what they need to do in life with families, jobs and other relationships.”
“When I came here (Lara) was just trying to get to know me as a kid,” Taufi said. “I came from the same part of Long Beach as he did so he knows the struggle of coming up… Recently I lost (a friend from Vegas) and he was just there for me as a father figure. He took a step back from coaching and checked on me mentally. You’re pushed to come out here and play hard for someone who cares about you.”
Taufi is the youngest of five brothers who grew up in Westside Long Beach where he learned his toughness and love for football.
“Kids nowadays get all the boo-boos but having older brothers and getting pushed around since a young age, you got used to it,” he said. “Toughness grew on you… I love the intensity (of football) because I just like hitting. I love all that contact. I love going full speed and giving it my all.”
It was clear Taufi had a natural ability to impact games while playing quarterback, running back, defensive back and lineman for multiple youth football teams. He even moved to Las Vegas for two years where he played football with his younger nephew.
Taufi’s mom, Amanda Knight, said it was a difficult decision to send her youngest son to Nevada for better opportunities. But she drove out every weekend to watch him play and never worried about him thriving in a new place.
“He’s externally outgoing,” she said. “My mom lived across the street from a park, when we were there he came home with a whole tray of food. ‘Where’d you get that from?’ He said, ‘Oh, my friends at the park.’ So we went and somebody was having a party. They were like, ‘Oh yeah, we love him. We sent home some food.’ We didn’t even know who these people were. He was probably 5-years old at the time. Wherever he went everybody would fall in love with him.”
Throughout a young life full of unfortunate circumstances that could’ve derailed him, Taufi has maintained a positive perspective.
“I don’t try to forget about it because that’s my upbringing and it makes me the person I am today,” he said. “It shaped me into this physical player who is going to give it his all. I kind of use it as motivation. You can’t take this for granted.”
That’s also driven Taufi to excel in the classroom where he enjoys studying Kinesiology.
“Being the only one in my family who has the last chance to make it to college, that’s something I really take pride and responsibility in,” Taufi said.