At 6’ 1’’ and 235 lbs., senior center Seki Kofe fits the part of a tough rugby player, but when he greets you with his wide grin it is easy to tell there is more to him than meets the eye.
“I still get nervous for the games,” Kofe laughs in his easygoing way. “It’s intense without pads.”
Kofe has been a key fixture of BYU’s rugby team since his freshman year. The celebrated athlete has won numerous awards and has been instrumental in the team’s back-to-back national championship victories. However, although Kofe has had great success at BYU, it was not always his plan to attend the university.
“My family has always played rugby,” Kofe said. “Originally I was going to play at Arizona State University because I knew the coach, but after my mission to Spain I decided I wanted to go to BYU.”
Although Kofe’s time at BYU has helped him excel academically, spiritually and physically, it has required dedication. His day typically begins before the sun rises and includes physical training, class (he is close to completing his degree in construction management), work and rugby practice. He is home long after the sun has set and works on homework until midnight. Kofe also balances being a husband and his calling as young men’s president in his ward.
“You decide whether you’re committed or not,” Kofe said. “You may not always want to do something, but if you love what you do you get it done.”
Kofe is the second of his ten siblings to attend a university. Growing up in Oregon he and his siblings spoke Tongan at home and English at school. He spent his summer working long hours on construction jobs with his father. “Getting into BYU really made my mom proud and I would do anything to make her happy. Now I will be able to work on the management side of construction.”
Originally Kofe was encouraged to get a contract playing rugby oversees once his college years were over. After getting married Kofe said his perspective shifted and he is now more interested in providing for his family than in continuing his rugby career. “Some told me that I was wasting my talent, but I know what’s most important,” Kofe said. “My wife makes me want to be a better person.”
The upcoming Penn Mutual Varsity Cup National Championship is both exciting for Kofe but also bittersweet considering it will be the athlete’s last.
“There are a lot of emotions right now,” Kofe said. “If we stick to our game and play with each other, I’m confident we’ll take [the title]. But more than winning, rugby is about brotherhood and the friends you make. What I appreciate most is that everyone is close and no one gets left out.”