There’s a comfortable vibe for Masila Siua, who’s playing football for Valley City State University, an NAIA school in North Dakota.
The 2021 Hilo High graduate likes the small campus feel with 1,452 students and the close bond he’s developed with his fellow Vikings. As fate would have it, Hilo and Valley City State University share the same nickname.
“It’s fun,” he said. “The people are really nice and open to making it feel like a community.”
It helps that the 6-foot-2, 190-pound freshman kicker and punter has a handful of freshmen teammates from Hawaii. There’s defensive back Hunter Phelps from Honolulu, linebacker Ashton Raquino from Waialua, defensive back Kai Hoekstra from Waialua, offensive linemen Zachary Gardner from Mililani, and Alema Moeava and Ian Tuitama from Kapolei.
Siua had a smooth time landing a scholarship because his mom, Eileen Walko, served as his sister Danielle Walko Siua’s recruiting coordinator.
“It made it easier that my sister went to Notre Dame College (in Ohio) for rugby,” he said. “My mom knew her way around and helped me put my name out there. Somehow I ended up in North Dakota.”
His sister, a 2014 Waiakea graduate, is now an assistant coach for the Falcons, who play on the Division II level in Ohio. She was a first-team All-American in 2017.
“She was pretty good. She was an NCAA champion,” he said. “She still plays on league teams in Ohio.”
Siua grew up playing the family sport of rugby but also soccer and football, too. He’s a cousin of former Hilo graduate and Kansas defensive tackle Isi Holani, who died last year at age 24.
He was born in American Samoa and moved to the Big Island at 2 1/2 years old. When Siua became a Viking, he found a familiar face in his uncle Laveitiga Suiaunoa, the former Hilo coach.
Siua arrived on campus on Aug. 2 and during training camp he got poked in the ribs because his teammates believed he didn’t look like a kicker.
“Everybody was ragging on me,” he said. “They thought I was a receiver. I played receiver in high school and on defense. I got injured my junior year in the first game.
“I was a soccer player and a natural kicker. Hilo didn’t have a kicking coach, so I watched YouTube videos to get better.”
His long is a 62-yard field goal kicked during practice. When you can punt, too, it’s easier to land a scholarship as a versatile player.
He’s majoring in exercise science and wildlife and would like to be an athletic trainer, but he’s also interested in conservation.
Siua found a comfortable fit with North Dakota’s weather.
“It’s really nice weather,” he said. “It’s hot in the afternoon and reminds me of Hawaii. It’s cool in the morning and hot in the afternoon. During the winter if you come, bring jackets.”
Siua has already provided a taste of home to his mainland teammates, who come from faraway places such as Alaska, California, Texas, Minnesota, Maryland, Florida, and even Australia.
“The Hawaii boys and I bought Spam at Walmart and cooked teriyaki Spam and ate it downstairs,” he said. “They have normal fast food here, like McDonald’s and a lot of pizza places. The cafeteria food is pretty good.”
In North Dakota, there are a few crazy state laws. It’s illegal to lie down and fall asleep with your shoes on. Beer and pretzels can’t be served together in any North Dakota bar or restaurant. It’s illegal to keep an elk in a sandbox in your backyard. No one is allowed to wear a hat while dancing or at any event where dancing is happening.
Siua is also staying safe. The Vikings have their own bubble and don’t venture far from campus.
But most of all, Siua wants to emulate his sister: graduate from college and get a good job. Not just for him, but for his parents, including Toni Siua his father.
“I definitely can’t wait to make my family proud,” he said of hitting the school books. “I want to take something back. Only me and my sister went to college.”
The Vikings went 5-2 last season and 7-3 in 2019. The season starts Thursday at home against the University of Jamestown.
Siua is focused on school work, his football duties, has made a bunch of friends with his Viking teammates, and has exercised discipline in staying safe during the pandemic.
Best of all, he’s comfortable and already doing his best to make his parents and everyone back home proud.