By Chelsee Rigby
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography)
When Noah Vaea was young, he loved watching his dad coach his older cousin’s football team. Vaea would excitedly put on his cousin’s helmet and couldn’t wait for the chance to strap on a helmet of his own.
A few years later, he has become one of the most well-known high school players in Utah, with his 12 interceptions this year as a junior contributing to a Herriman High football team that makes history with each win.
Vaea is not just an outstanding athlete. he is simply an outstanding person that his teammates and classmates look up to. The football program is incredibly important at Herriman and within the community. Hundreds of Herriman students come to each game to support the team, and nearly 1,000 supporters showed up to cheer on the team as the Mustangs met Skyview in the 5A state semifinals at Rice Eccles Stadium Nov. 13.
The crowd roared as three Vaea plays – an interception he returned 21 yards for a score, a completed halfback pass and a vital fumble recovery – played a huge role in turning the game in his team’s favor.
It isn’t easy for Vaea to stay physically fit and ready to perform so smoothly during football practice and weekly games. The defensive back attends powerlifting classes two to three days a week, and also attends regularly scheduled practice Monday through Thursday for each sport that he plays.
“Truly, I am always busy with some sport preparing for an upcoming game,” Vaea said.
His coaches sing his praises.
Randall Kammerman, varsity tight end coach/offensive line coach, agreed. “Kid is a freaking ball hawk. All he does is make plays.”
Vaea, though, attributes the key to this season’s success to the family vibe felt within the team.
“The brotherhood and the camaraderie we have is something no one can take away from us,” Vaea said. “We treat each other like family. That has a lot to do with our success. It’s by far the best part of football for me.”
Center Moses Mallory said the brotherhood this year “is different than it’s ever been” and that Vaea’s an integral part of it. “He’s a quiet leader,” Mallory said. “He leads by example. He’ll lead on the field.”
Sophomore tight end Tevita Fotu said he thinks Vaea is “the best safety in the state” and that every time they practice, “he gives 100 percent.”
“To me, I look up to him because when I first moved out here, he was the best football player I’d ever seen play,” Fotu said. “He loves his brothers, we love him and we play our hearts out for each other.”
Vaea is more than just an interception machine. In addition to those 12 picks, he is the Mustangs’ top tackler and its punter. The junior occasionally even finds himself on the field with the offensive unit.
He has run for 329 yards and four touchdowns this year, and then there was that 25-yard halfback pass against Sky View that turned a third-and-16 into a first down. Noah’s athletic and academic talent will, without a doubt, take him far in life.
Vaea plans on staying true to what he loves – athletic fitness and physical wellness.
“My hope is to one day receive a scholarship to a college where I’d be able to continue playing football, the game I love, for at least a few more years while I get an education so that one day I will be able to provide for my family, ” Vaea said. “I’d go to any school that will give me the chance to play football, but if I were to just go to school for education and not for football, I would go to the University of Utah. I want to be a physical therapist (and) trainer.”
Whatever Vaea chooses to do with his raw talent and promising future, the Herriman community will cheer him on for being an innovative and groundbreaking player that continues to inspire others to succeed, on and off the field.