Two friends that go beyond playing football
At first glance they look like a group of misfits -- mismatched jerseys, differing helmets, and no football field to call home.
But on the field, the Zion All-Stars are far from misfits.
The team was created be its head coach, Jay Puafisi, who drew from his personal background to come up with the name.
"Growing up Zion is, in the gospel culture, ‘one heart, one mind,’ said Puafisi. “I have my other side, my Polynesian side where Zion is like rasta and reggae and that stuff so it kind of just came together with that."
Puafisi believes football can help teach life lessons. He hopes to be a mentor to his eighth grade players, including TJ Sa'u and Kayden Fonoimoana -- best friends and teammates, but their story goes beyond football.
"When I was in 6th grade, me and my dad, we were homeless,” Kayden said. “When I met TJ we started hanging out more and I thought I was comfortable enough in that school with him that like he was there for me. He got my back.”
"We started telling each other stories and I started figuring out his story so I was like 'alright you could come over and stuff," said TJ.
Kayden would often visit TJ at his house and occasionally sleep over when he had nowhere to go. One night his dad dropped him off at TJ's house, but this time was different.
"He said he was going to come back the next day to pick me up and he didn't,” said Kayden. “Couple days passed and I tried to call him and found out he was in jail."
Kayden had nowhere to go. So he stayed with TJ.
"I believe in love and Kayden deserves to be loved just like the rest of us,” said TJ’s mother, Shauna. “He's a special kid. I don't think any of us were expecting him to join our family the way he has, however it's been a huge blessing I think for all of us."
It's stories like Kayden's that make Puafisi's job rewarding, giving kids something to look forward to and a chance to learn life lessons.
"It's more than football,” said Puafisi. “It's more than the X’s and O’s and first downs and touchdowns and everything like that. It's more than that. It's been humbling to get to know kids like Kayden and TJ that have been through so much that any other 8th grader, I don't know if I'd be able to handle what they've been through."
Now, Kayden gets to enjoy something he never had growing up. A family.