A high school football player who had earned a full athletic scholarship is presumed to have drowned last week in Northern California when he was knocked off his boogie board and pulled out to sea by a strong rip current.
Naphtali Moimoi, a senior interior lineman at Hayward High School in San Mateo County, was scheduled to attend and play football at the University of Wyoming in the fall.
“Everybody is in shock,” Moimoi’s uncle, Ed Benson, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “You never think your loved one is going to be gone like this. Right now it’s disbelief and denial.”
The 18-year-old Moimoi had been riding waves with teammates at Poplar Beach in Half Moon Bay on Thursday while on spring break. The 6-foot-4 270-pounder could not be recovered despite the efforts of teammates and rescue crews to save him, Ian Larkin, fire chief for the Coastside Fire Protection District, told the newspaper.
“The coastline is a treacherous place, and the rip currents can be very strong along the coast at this time of year,” Larkin said. “People need to do their due diligence, never turn your back on the water and watch the rip currents.”
Moimoi was a four-year starter at Hayward, although a broken foot limited him to just one game in his junior season. Other schools expressed interest in him as a senior, but he stuck with an early commitment to Wyoming, an NCAA football bowl subdivision school in the Mountain West Conference.
“Other schools came after him also, but he stayed loyal to Wyoming. He was just a fiercely loyal person,” Hayward coach Justin Redemer told the Chronicle, adding that Moimoi occasionally would babysit the coach’s four children. “He was a gentle soul, especially around kids. That’s why we were so comfortable with him being with our kids.”
A GoFundMe has been set up for his memorial service.
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