Oklahoma Sooners lineman Nila Kasitati embraces family

Sibling embraces 11-sibling family as a leader for the Sooners

Growing up as the middle child in a big family, Oklahoma offensive lineman Nila Kasitati had eight brothers and two sisters – a Kasitati football team from a very early age.

He got picked on occasionally, but he also picked on his younger siblings. 

“I wouldn’t say you were stuck in the shuffle,” Kasitati said with a laugh. “Sometimes, it was like that.”

That crowd shaped Kasitati in the man he is today – a lover of family and a very proud individual. He learned from his older brothers how to be a leader, until it was his time to teach his younger siblings.

He loved being around his older brothers, but the desire to be like his older siblings– as good as he thought they were – kept him wanting to be better.

“It keeps you hungry,” said Kasitati, who found a new form of family when he came to Oklahoma – a long way from his original home in American Samoa.

 He looks around this week and sees his football brothers in trouble. They’ve been beaten down and are being questioned. Family is very important to Kasitati. He said its one of the main things that drives him.

Beyond his immediate family, he thrives on the connection with his teammates. 

“I see this team as a family,” Kasitati said. “It’s something that drives some for sure. . . . It is that push. When you’re tired, you realized you’re doing this, not only because this is my job, but this is my life and my brothers’ lives on the line. It’s not a selfish thing. It’s something when you have to think about others.”

At a young age, Kasitati’s older brothers taught him lessons, which he transferred to his younger siblings – helping them to grow in a family with little money.

When Kasitati was in the eighth grade, his father passed away. He had his family, and in high school, Kasitati had football after the family moved to Texas.

Kasitati spoke Tuesday, jumping back and forth between his immediate family and his football family.

“You learned from their mistakes and you learned from where they’re doing and learned to do things the right way and the wrong way. And how you need to be as a leader, as an older one, when it is your time,” Kasitati said of growing up with 10 brothers and sisters.

“Everybody has their own kind of thing going on,” Kasitati said of the Oklahoma Sooners football program. “At the end of the day, you’re brothers, and you’re with each other to the end. Through the good and the bad, it’s the best thing.”

Kasitati is now the older brother with Oklahoma – having learned from Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson among many others how to be a leader. And now, his football family faces a challenge.

The offensive line is struggling. The Sooners just lost the Red River Showdown for the second time in three years. It was also the first loss of the season.

Kasitati is used to this. It’s nothing new to him. It’s another challenge. And he has his family around to support him.

“You have to make sure the guys keep this mindset – this positive mindset,” Kasitati said after the loss that he called a scar to be learned from. “Making sure that we understand that this isn’t a funeral. We’re not even halfway into our season. This cannot be something that holds us down. This has to be something that we look at as a learning tool, something that motivates us.”

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