SOUTH JORDAN, Utah (ABC4 News) – Star football player Langi Tuifua seemed like he had a promising future in sports, but a serious injury brought his hopes and dreams to a crashing stop.
This tough young man from South Jordan did not let the injury end his career goals, however. He got back up, started over, and stepped into acting.
His hard work paid off when he landed a role in the Lifetime Christmas film, “The Christmas Edition”.
Growing up in South Jordan, the 6’4 football star became a local hero at Bingham High School, helping the Miners dominate football in the state. He finished his high school career as a nationally ranked defensive end across the nation and was seen as a four-star recruit by the universities.
Several schools chased after the young man including the University of Utah and Oregon State, but he committed to BYU. Choosing the Cougars brought even more excitement to Coach Kalani Sataki’s young program. Tuifua was expected to become a force on BYU’s team. He played in 6 games and made 7 tackles.
That’s when every athlete’s nightmare struck: The career ending injury.
“I just hit one of the guards on the offense pretty hard, and my neck went a weird way, my entire left arm went numb. At first I was super scared because I thought I had just lost my arm.”
Tuifua tried his best to get back in the game, even having surgery to try and fix the problem, but he realized continuing to play could have drastic consequences. In 2019 on his Instagram he announced his retirement from football.
He tells ABC4 News, “I did not know what my next plan would be, at that point I was just very lost.”
He went to the school counselors and asked about acting and was then put into a theater history class and an acting class. Tuifua says, “I liked this, I liked this a lot, so I kept going with it, so here we are today!”
He began auditioning for several films and landed a role in a short film about facing addictions titled “Huff.” After working on the short film, he met a casting director, and she recommended him to the casting director of “The Christmas Edition”.
Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, the audition was done via a recording, he did that on a Friday, and on the following Monday, they said he had the role. When he was told he had landed the part Tiufua describes “dancing around his room and his sister’s room!”
What is the difference between the part and football? “I was a happy jolly guy, it was a lot different than hitting 300lb men all the time, it’s a fun little switch up for my life”
Utah’s Marie Osmond is also in Christmas Edition, but Langi was a little young for “Donny and Marie.”
“She was only there for like two days, I remember seeing her, I didn’t know who she was at the time, and I feel really bad about it, everyone was like taking pictures with her, and I was like ‘why is everyone taking pictures with her?’ My dad calls me, and I said there’s this girl named Marie Osmond, and everyone’s taking pictures with her; my Dad said: ‘What? You didn’t take a picture with Marie Osmond?'”
He credits football’s work ethic in helping him have the right mindset for acting, teaching him to respect other’s time, and realizing everyone works hard on their part of the project. He says he would love to do another lifetime movie.
Breaking the Mold
There is another part important to him in all this: Community. He knows he is now part of the Polynesian community’s new higher visibility in media.
“I remember watching Duane ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Jason Momoa and just seeing how people like us could be in their positions doing bigger things, and it’s just, we have a very warrior oriented culture, and football is like the way to go, and that’s like it’s okay. It’s just cool to see how many different things we can do. In the Polynesian’s hearts, we are like artists; we’re meant to be artists and to be able to be one of those artists just makes me happy, I’m able to show younger generations I’m here, and you can do it too.”
Tuifua told ABC4 News that in the beginning he had trouble even watching his friend’s social media posts showing what they were doing with football, but now he’s learned to get back up and go forward and shares this advice.
“It was possibly the hardest thing in my life, not necessarily a hard decision, but it was hard to give it up, I was hurt, I felt like I can’t keep going or I am going to end up paralyzed or something, giving it up was really hard, and I had no idea I would come this far, it was just beautiful, and it was God’s plan for me, I did a lot of praying, and I was down on the ground.
“I felt like I was at rock bottom,” Tuifua reflects.
“I was starting over, starting with the basics, it’s going to take some time, humble yourself, get as good as you can, audition for as many things as you can, work. your new craft, I feel like God played a huge part in it.
“Find your “why”, my why is family, just to be able to work and to be able to help your family, it will help you get out from under, no matter how far down you are.”