High School Sports

From Nation Ford to Brigham Young: Fort Mill family knows this path well

Mac Banks

If there was ever a such thing as the “First Family of Nation Ford High,” their name would be Tuipulotu.

For the past eight years in one way or another, a Tuipulotu has walked the halls and played on the fields of Nation Ford. After this year, that tradition will end. The youngest of the group, Petey Tuipulotu, 17, is in his senior year.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Mo Tuipulotu, matriarch of the family. “We are excited for Petey to be at this point. We have loved our time there. We have loved Nation Ford. It has been a great place to raise your kids and send them to school.”

The Tuipulotus have had four children come through the school starting with oldest child Hank, followed by twins Ben and Sami (the only girl of the four), and now, Petey.

While still the youngest, at 6-foot-4, 200-pounds Petey isn’t the little kid of the family. The wide receiver/safety will follow his siblings’ to Brigham Young University in 2020, having already verbally committed to the school.

He officially signed to play BYU in December. He looked at Miami University in Ohio and the University of North Carolina, but his heart was always with BYU.

“I considered a couple schools vaguely, but I didn’t show much interest in them because I didn’t want to waste their time and I didn’t want to waste my time,” he said. “I knew I was going to go to BYU since day one. It was kind of a dream come true for me.”

In one way the entire journey for the Tuipulotu family started at BYU.

Pete Tuipulotu Sr. met Mo at the school while he was playing football for the Cougars and while she was staring on the basketball court. A year from now, the couple will have all four of their children going to the Mormon-based school in Provo, Utah.

The Tuipulotu family is Morman.

Unlike the other Tuipulotu siblings, Petey will put off his Mormon-related, two-year mission trip, until after his freshman year. That will give him a chance to play football with his brothers.

“I didn’t realize it would work that way,” Petey said. “I played two years with Ben in high school, but I never got to play with Hank. I am looking forward to going to college and playing with my brothers.”

Petey said it feels weird starting his senior season at Nation Ford since he has been around the school since eldest brother Hank was playing football. Hank graduated in 2016, twins Ben and Sami graduated in 2018.

“I feel like I have been here forever,” Petey said. “I used to come to Hank’s practices and I was the ball boy on Friday nights. I was just the little kid, but now I am the senior on the team.”

One thing that Petey is excited for is that he gets to share his senior year with his namesake, Pete Sr. Petey isn’t a “junior” because he and his father have different middle names. However, Petey was named after his father.

“It is nice to have him here with me,” Petey said. “Especially at practice. He can tell me some of the things I don’t notice and help me out with things. If I have any questions, I can just come to him at any time.”

And if there is anything Pete Sr. should know it is football. Pete Sr. is an assistant football coach for Nation Ford and played a couple years in the NFL. Pete Sr. also serves as campus security for Nation Ford.

Before the NFL, Pete Sr. played at BYU from 1987-1991. He then played for the San Diego Chargers in 1992 and 1993 and then in the Canadian Football League in 1994 and 1995.

“To see Petey come into his own, because I was spending time with the older boys (Hank and Ben) until his sophomore year, where I could get into his mind and work with him, but it was nice to see he was able to do a lot on his own and he took off before I could work with him,” he said. “Petey is kind of different than the other two boys. He had to do it on his own for a few years, so when it was time for me to help, he was like, ‘No, dad, I know what I am doing.’ He is a little bit more independent.”

Pete Sr. said both him and his wife feel a lot of satisfaction in seeing their children go to BYU.

“It is nice to see them all be there,” he said. “It has come full circle.”

Mo said her and Pete Sr. plan on visiting their children as often as they can, and said it will help having them all living in the same house, which they purchased to keep the kids together.

“We want to make it to as many ball games as we can,” she said. “They are probably hoping their parents won’t hover.”

Mac Banks: mbanks@comporium.net, @MacBanksFM