Fort Osage High School graduate Ezra Vaoifi opened the 2013 football season with a bang, leading the Indians to a 25-7 victory over Park Hill South as he scored two touchdowns and rushed for 313 yards.
Vaoifi hopes to end his prep career with an explosive finale as he and his Missouri all-star teammates play host to Kansas at 7 p.m. tonight in the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association All-Star Football Game at Blue Springs High School’s Peve Stadium.
“We’re going to do everything we can to help Ezra end his career like he started his senior season against Park Hill South,” said Griffin Bledsoe, who along with fellow Fort Osage offensive lineman Dalton Miller, will be blocking for Vaoifi in tonight’s all-star game.
“Ezra’s a great player and a great guy. We want him to have a big game because that will help us beat Kansas.”
Added Miller, “If he gets 300 yards I’m betting we win the game. It’s going to be a big night for all of us, because it’s the last time we’ll ever play together.”
There was a time two years ago, when Vaoifi wondered if he would ever be able to play the game he loves – and dominates.
Vaoifi was tagged as a “can’t miss” sophomore, who was expected to be the man in the Indians’ backfield. Then, he tore the ACL in his left knee early in the season.
“One play and my season – and maybe my career – is over,” Vaoifi said before a recent practice session at Raytown South High School. “The pressure of coming back from a torn ACL was something I’d never experienced. I wasn’t supposed to be on the sidelines on crutches; I was supposed to be carrying the ball, helping the Indians win on Friday nights.”
For two agonizing years, Vaoifi rehabbed that knee. No one knows how many trips he made to see his therapist. No one can count how many sprints he ran, stairs he climbed or prayers he said.
“I was coming back,” Vaoifi said. “Would I be as good as I was before? That was the question. That was the pressure.”
He not only came back, he came back better than ever.
Vaoifi played part-time as a junior, then earned all-state status as a senior, finishing the season with 264 carries for 2,034 yards (7.7 ave.) and 25 touchdowns. He added 16 receptions for 173 yards and two more scores and finished with an eye-opening 2,412 all-purpose yards.
“He was a player on a mission,” Fort Osage coach Ryan Schartz said. “He lost some weight, gained some speed – he was something to watch his senior year.”
And now, he’s playing in his final football game for two years, as he will find out Friday where he will be sent for a two-year mission as part of his work with the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints.
“The only thing I love more than football is God, and I am so excited to see where my mission takes me,” Vaoifi said. “I wish I would have found out before the game, because I wanted to write where I was going on my cleats. I am savoring all these practices and my final time on the football field for two years.
“I love this game, and I worked so hard to be able to come back and play. When I was rehabbing, I called myself ‘The Comeback Kid.’ I didn’t have a very good junior year and mainly played defense. Then, I had the big senior year, and felt like I was back.”
And he made one final comeback, to earn a spot on the Missouri all-star team.
“I saw the roster, and saw that I wasn’t on it and I was really disappointed,” he admitted. “Then, I got a call and they asked if I would like to be on the team. It was a day or so before practice started. I said, “Yes!” and here I am. The Comeback Kid is back.”