Manase Palu has his eyes on a record — a big record.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior running back wants to break Burlingame High School's single-season rushing record of 2,798 yards set by Onan Reyes in 1997.
"It's always been a dream of mine to go down in history at a school," said Palu, who rushed for 998 yards on 120 carries for a hefty 8.3 yards per carry average last year in a breakout junior campaign. "No matter what happens, I'm going to do my best."
Of that, there is no doubt. Ever since he started playing Pop Warner football at age 7, Palu has been proactive in advancing his career, on and off the field. Last year, Palu created his own website, manasepalu.com, highlighting his mission statement, athletic profile and goals. Panthers coach John Philipopoulos said Palu has always had a drive and will to succeed.
"Manase does a lot of the little, dirty things that people don't notice, and it speaks to his maturity and character," Philipopoulos said. "He's a fantastic blocker and does a great job of protecting the ball."
Indeed, Palu fumbled just twice last season, an amazing feat for a featured back. Palu's reliability is one of the many reasons why the Panthers are probably the favorite to win the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division title this season. Palu isn't the fastest player around, but he has no problems running by defenders. Powerful, strong and agile, Palu possesses a quick first step along with excellent vision and instincts.
"Manase has a fabulous understanding of running in that he knows when to cut and take it wide and find a lane to get through, even when it's very small," Philipopoulos said. "He has a great ability to stop on a dime, and he can run around you and over you. Basically, he'll do whatever it takes to get the necessary yards."
Football is truly a family affair for the Palu family. Paul's seven uncles — yes, seven — all played football at Burlingame and his older brother, Benji, graduated in the spring after earning All-PAL honors as an offensive guard. Last year, Palu often ran behind huge holes created by Benji, who has served as a true big brother in every sense of the word.
"I pretty much owe him everything for being the player and person I am today," Palu said. "Benji has taught me a lot about blocking and gave me the mindset to work on every part of the game."
Palu entered his sophomore season at Burlingame never thinking he would one day become arguably the best tailback in the PAL, as he was known more for his playmaking abilities at free safety. However, every time Palu got a carry, he did something that made the Burlingame coaches realize they had a special talent.
"I take pride in having a high motor in our games and practices," Palu said. "My mindset is to push until I can't push anymore."