By Victor Groberg
Photos by Christopher Lund
In the state of Utah, the name Kaufusi is generally associated with football. While hundreds of football players come and go without making a name for themselves, Brighton High senior Jackson Kaufusi is continuing a family legacy as he is prepared to take his game to the next level.
A 2015 team captain for the Bengals, Kaufusi was definitely a force. Defensively he delivered the stats, with 100 tackles during the 2015 season (155 for his career), but he was much more than that. Kaufusi was rarely on the sidelines.
When Brighton had the ball, the senior did all the little things that lead to wins. There was the rare carry or pass reception, but Kaufusi was mostly the guy creating openings as a lead blocker from his spot in the offensive backfield.
He gives his prime effort every play and his coach, Ryan Bullett, is one of the many who took note. One special characteristic that stands out about Jackson is that he is a leader on and off the field.
“He stays constant on both sides of the ball,” Bullett said. “Jackson is one of the best players in the program. He never misses a play and is always positive.”
Bullett predicts that when Jackson moves on to the collegiate level he will play as a linebacker or safety. During Brighton games, the 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker wearing No. 9 did not hesitate to accept any challenge on the field and was frequently noticed by recruiters.
Kaufusi is a top recruit, holding offers from the University of California, Utah, Brigham Young (where his older brother Isaiah is committed), Utah State, Weber State and Virginia Union. At this point, while others have announced their college choices, he is still in the process.
The senior has had several football influences from a young age. His father, Jeff, and six uncles played college football–five of them for the University of Utah. He said he remembers growing up and watching his family play which sparked his interest to play himself.
The seven sons of Petelo and Eveline Kaufusi have all been able to use their success in football to pay for college. The oldest son, Steve, played at Dixie College and then at BYU, was drafted by the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in 1988, then went on to coach at the University of Utah. He is currently the defensive line coach at Brigham Young University, where his son, Bronson, stars.
Rich Kaufusi followed his brother to Dixie and on to BYU, where he played defensive end on the Ty Detmer-led Cougar team that beat defending national champion Miami in Provo. Jason, Jeff, Doug and Henry all played at the University of Utah under Ron McBride, and Pasa Tuku’afu, who was taken in by the Kaufusi family, also played for the Utes.
As an assistant coach at Brighton, Jackson’s father, Jeff, impacts his son on the field every day.
“Practicing on the field is one thing, but the real coaching is when we get home,” Jeff said.
He shared an enlightening moment from when Jackson was in the ninth grade and was asked to what he wanted to dedicate himself. “Football,” was his answer. From that point, he has earned his success, the elder Kaufusi said.
“He gives me 100 percent on every play.”
There is no disguising the passion Jackson feels toward the game and the Brighton program. Beyond the spotlight and awards, Kaufusi is a genuine and humble person. He never boasts of himself and stays grounded. Teammates say that he is committed and helps unify the team.
“I’ve never thought much of it,” Jackson said when asked about his success and popularity. “I’m the person I am today because of football.”
Although football has opened many opportunities, it also comes with a large sacrifice of time. When he’s off the gridiron, though, Kaufusi likes to spend time with family and friends.
He wishes nothing more than to make the best of his last year with the people close to him. After high school, he plans to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before continuing the Kaufusi tradition of playing college football.