Meet the BYU football walk-on with a ‘side hustle’ to pay the bills because he’s not on scholarship
A senior from Maui, Hawaii, who still doesn’t have a scholarship, Jared Kapisi recorded his first career interception in No. 11 BYU’s 52-14 win over Texas State last week
On BYU’s nationally ranked football team, senior Jared Kapisi is known for his versatility. The walk-on from Maui, Hawaii, has played receiver, cornerback, safety and even kicker, the position that brought him to Provo.
He’s also known as the team’s unofficial barber.
It’s true. Before COVID-19 hit and turned everyone’s life upside down, Kapisi — referred to as “Isi” by his coaches and friends — had a little “side hustle” cutting his teammates’ hair in the locker room — for $10 a pop, plus tips. According to the Daily Universe, Kapisi once earned a crisp Benjamin ($100) from NBA player Frank Jackson of the New Orleans Pelicans for cutting the hair of the former Lone Peak High and Duke University star.
“I love getting people ready to go (on game day),” Kapisi told BYU’s student newspaper, but added that he won’t pursue a career as a barber. He is an experience, design and management major with big goals for his future.
“Jared is one of those guys who is always putting his head down and constantly working. And so to see him get this opportunity, and make the most of it, just makes everyone else excited for him, really.” — BYU linebacker Pepe Tanuvasa
Before then, though, there is his final season as a Cougar to complete, a season in which he’s finally realizing his dream of being an impact player for coach Kalani Sitake. Kapisi saw some extended action at safety, rotating with fellow senior Zayne Anderson, in BYU’s 43-26 win over Houston two weeks ago, and followed that with more time against Texas State last week.
He even made his first career interception against the Bobcats, and was mugged by his celebrating teammates on the sidelines because they know what he’s been through to become a part of the team.
BYU (6-0) plays host to Western Kentucky Saturday night (8:15 p.m. MDT, ESPN) at LaVell Edwards Stadium trying not to look past the Hilltoppers (2-4) and ahead to the Nov. 6 showdown at No. 25 Boise State (1-0).
“Jared is one of those guys who is always putting his head down and constantly working,” said another BYU walk-on, linebacker Pepe Tanuvasa. “And so to see him get this opportunity, and make the most of it, just makes everyone else excited for him, really.”
Kapisi said he will never forget the feeling of intercepting the pass and feeling the support of all his teammates.
“I was super hyped, so it was a really cool moment for me,” he said.
Having made only four career tackles prior to this season, Kapisi said he’s thought about quitting the team “a million times,” but only seriously considered it once or twice.
“It always came back to me that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you have to come out and to contribute,” he said. “To me, I could never live with myself after football, and after college, if I was to give up something that I still have an opportunity to continue doing. I always think to myself, ‘Why not keep playing? This is my dream. Why not keep living out my dream until I can’t live it out anymore?”
Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said Kapisi has earned playing time for his relentless preparation and diligence in practice.
“We are excited about the way he’s been playing safety, and we needed another safety in a lot of different (schemes), and he’s stepped up,” Tuiaki said. “He is definitely going to be a contributor for us.”
Junior defensive back Jared Kapisi started cutting his own hair in high school and throughout his mission. After a successful walk-on tryout into BYU football, he brought his hobby to the football locker room. https://t.co/KfPZaqaLsw pic.twitter.com/0QmXf29U3h— BYU Daily Universe (@UniverseBYU) February 18, 2020
Not bad for a guy who originally came to BYU just wanting to get a tryout as a kicker in 2014 when Paul Tidwell was Bronco Mendenhall’s recruiting coordinator. Told that they already had enough kickers, Kapisi says he “showed up at tryouts anyway” as a receiver and made the 123-man roster in that position.
Kapisi was the Maui Interscholastic League’s leading receiver as a junior at Maui High, and fourth as a senior, according to The Maui News. After a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Scottsdale, Arizona, he was on the scout team in 2017 and then appeared in 12 games in 2018, mostly on special teams.
Having worn a couple other numbers earlier in his career, Kapisi now wears No. 43 and is proud of that because Samoan-heritage hero and NFL Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers wore that number.
BYU equipment managers “threw me No. 43 and I was like, 43 is not my favorite number, but there are a lot of great players that wore 43 and especially Troy Polamalu, that is my dude because I am Samoan. I mean, I felt good wearing 43 because I was like, ‘I can play like him.’”
And if the former All-American at USC ever decides to get his trademark long, flowing hair cut, Kapisi can do that, too.