Wednesday started out as a day of celebration for the Desert Pines football program as 11 players signed letters of intent to play in college.
“It was one of those bittersweet moments where it went from one of the happiest days of his life to probably the saddest day of his life,” Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said Poutasi, who signed to play at Cal-Berkeley, went to the hospital after the school’s signing ceremony in the morning. Vaelua Poutasi died later that day from complications caused by diabetes.
Rodriguez said Poutasi wasn’t ready to discus the loss of his mother, but the lineman did express his grief on Twitter Wednesday evening.
“My beautiful mother took her last breath today,” Poutasi tweeted. “Today was signing day, the day where I make her proud, the day where she can say my son is going to school for free.
“My mom is the strongest person I’ll ever come to know, seeing her take her last breath was just unbelievable. I honestly thought you were going to stay with me forever, but God had other plans in mind.”
Rodriguez said Poutasi returned to school Thursday and was surrounded by the support of his teammates.
“I think he’s leaning on his teammates,” Rodriguez said. “They’re a real close group, especially the senior class. And I think he came to school to be around them to get their positive energy and support.
”He’s very well-loved here at Desert Pines, and I think he just wanted to be with his brothers and get his mind off he situation.”
Rodriguez said he just found out that Poutasi’s mother was in the hospital a couple days before the signing ceremony. Rodriguez said the whole program is grieving right now.
“He’s just an amazing person,” Rodriguez said. “He has a really strong faith. He’s always been one of the more positive kids on our team. Just to have this tragic experience is tough for our whole community, because we love the kid so much and we hate to see him hurting.”