Coaches Tackle Cancer for One of Their Own

Many former and current coaches and players from the NCAA and NFL are pairing up with the Polynesian Coaches Association for the purpose of holding a charity event for one of their own. On June 17, the Coaches Tackling Cancer Golf Tournament will be hosted on behalf of UNLV assistant coach and former BYU offensive tackle Keith Uperesa, who has gone under the knife in an effort to save his life.

On May 5, Keith Uperesa underwent surgery after being diagnosed with cancer back in February.

"Keith Uperesa got two forms of cancer," said All-Poly Camp founder Alema Te'o, who is actively involved in organizing the Coaches Tackling Cancer Golf Tournament. "He was diagnosed with colon cancer and thyroid cancer. It pretty much hit him one after the other. He had surgery down at the UCLA Medical Center and the doctors feel they pretty much got all of the cancer, but now he's got to go through all the chemotherapy. It's really taken a toll out of his family and friends."

After becoming an All-WAC offensive tackle at BYU, Uperesa went on to play in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders. He became a graduate assistant in 1985 and earned his master's degree in 1986 before becoming a coach at Snow Junior College. From there his coaching pedigree grew over the years, and he used his position to positively influence many young football players.

"Keith is such a great guy and has done so much for many people," said Te'o. "He took me in and gave me a chance to coach at Snow Junior College while he was a head coach there. He helped influence many young men in a positive way and continued to do so while coaching at other colleges such as Utah, USC and UNLV. For something like this to happen to such a great guy is very unfortunate, but at the same time it allows us to bring a greater awareness of this disease to others. When it comes down to it, we need to be around for our kids."

Standing by Uperesa's side through this ordeal has been his wife Kaipo, son Ikaika and daughters Naupaka and Kahikole. The surgeries and subsequent medical care have been overwhelmingly costly for the family. In an effort to help pay for the medical expenses, a large number of coaches and players have joined forces with the Polynesian Coaches Association. Te'o was first contacted about this important cause by UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow.

"Norm thought this would be a good chance for the Polynesian Coaches Association to step up and do something good for Keith by helping to alleviate some of the cost," Te'o said.

"Even after the surgeries and treatment that he's going to be going through, it's going to be a very costly ordeal for him and his family," Te'o continued. "That's kind of how it got started, and from there we all just kind of got together and thought, ‘Hey, we're going to try and raise as much money as we can for Coach Uperesa.' We want to be there for him and his family in this time of need."

As was previously mentioned, a host of former and current players and coaches will be in attendance at the Coaches Tackling Cancer Golf Tournament.

"I know that LaVell Edwards has committed to come down, and Keith Uperesa played for Coach Edwards at BYU," said Te'o. "Norm Chow is a close friend and Keith Uperesa had the chance to coach with Norm, so Coach Chow is coming down from UCLA to be a part of this effort. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall has his camp that same day but will be there to support afterwards. We'll also have coaches from Stanford down like Andy Buh and Lance Anderson there as well.

"We've got Steve Sarkisian, who is the head coach of Washington, coming down as well. He was a former quarterback for LaVell Edwards and Norm Chow when they were all at BYU. Sarkisian was also a former assistant coach at USC when Norm Chow was the offensive coordinator. We've also got Coach Mike Sanford, who coached at Utah and is now the head coach at UNLV. [Utah head coach] Kyle Whittingham will be down there and [former Utah head coach and current Weber State head coach] Ron McBride will be playing for support. I know [Utah State head coach] Gary Anderson is committed to a football clinic that day but is going to try and work his way down there after. He said he would send coaches that are a part of his staff down to participate in the event."

Also in attendance will be former BYU quarterback Robbie Bosco, Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitaki, NFL receiver Kevin Curtis, and former NFL players Junior Ione, Mario Fatafehe, Aaron Boone, Derek Smith and Brant Boyer.

"We're really grateful to be able to get together all these coaches and players with the Polynesian Coaches Association to help promote this Coaches Tackling Cancer Golf Tournament to help raise money for Keith Uperesa," said Te'o. "Obviously Keith will be the recipient of these funds to help pay for the expensive costs of these surgeries and continued treatment that have pretty much taken a toll on him financially. This golf tournament is being organized on his behalf for the purpose of helping him, and it's a great cause."

The Coaches Tackling Cancer Golf Tournament will be held on June 17 in American Fork, Utah at the Fox Hollow Gold Club located at 1400 North 200 East. Check-in time will be 12:00 p.m. and the event will start at 1:00 p.m. with a shotgun start scramble format.

The cost will be $150 for a single entry and $500 for a foursome. Sponsorships can be made for a hole at the cost of $1,000. There will be a raffle and giveaways for participants, who will be paired up with the players and coaches in attendance. There will also be picture opportunities as well as a luau after the tournament.

Among the items being raffled off are trips put together by the San Francisco 49ers and UNLV Rebels.

"I know 49er fans are going to like this," said Te'o. "Jesse Sapolu, who was a center for the 49ers, got the San Francisco 49er organization to donate a package for two to fly down to San Francisco. They'll spend one night at the Grand Plaza Hotel and then be escorted to [Candlestick Park] where they can participate in the pre-game activities on the field. They'll have two field passes for two tickets to the game as well as two tickets to the Hall of Fame dinner. They'll be able to attend the Hall of Fame dinner and mingle with former great 49er players like Jerry Rice and Joe Montana, as well as other great football players.

"Also, UNLV put together a package for the BYU game down there. It will be a trip for two with an overnight stay at a hotel with all the fancy treatment included while you're down there for the BYU vs. UNLV game. So we're hoping that people come down and participate in this event held in honor of a great cause, and that cause is to help a college coach, a father, a friend to many and a man who has done much good for others over the years."

Those who wish to help Coach Uperesa in some way but can't attend the Coaches Tackling Cancer Golf Tournament can contact Riley Jensen at rjensen@thefansports.com.


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