Column: St. John Bosco’s Adam Awaida plays through the pain of lost loved ones

St. John Bosco tight end Adam Awaida poses for a photo after a recent win.
Tight end Adam Awaida of St. John Bosco caught his first touchdown pass in a semifinal playoff game against Corona Centennial, causing teammates to erupt in jubilation after Awaida had been dealing with a personal tragedy.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

When junior tight end Adam Awaida caught a 27-yard touchdown pass for Bellflower St. John Bosco last week during the fourth quarter of a playoff game against Corona Centennial, teammates on the sideline, fans in the bleachers and coaches in the press box erupted in jubilation.

It was his first touchdown this season and hardly seemed noteworthy in a Southern Section Division 1 semifinal that had a running clock and the only thing to decide was the winning margin. But those who know what Awaida has endured in a time of personal anguish wanted to express their unwavering support.

“I feel that was like God calling,” running back Nathaniel Jones said. “It was amazing to see.”

Said quarterback DJ Uiagalelei: “It was a super cool moment if you knew what was going on behind it.”


Added tight ends coach Nate Munson: “I was sobbing on the sideline how excited I was for him, and I know the entire team felt the same.”

After players shook hands with Centennial following the 52-14 victory that advanced St. John Bosco to the championship game against Santa Ana Mater Dei on Saturday at Cerritos College, Awaida stood in the middle of the field holding his helmet and said, “It meant the world to me just knowing they were up there watching me.”

Awaida’s story is so hard to tell because his family has gone through far too much. He lost a younger brother in a hiking accident several years ago. Then on Halloween night, an alleged drunk driver struck his older brother, sister-in-law and 3-year-old nephew while they were walking with a stroller along a sidewalk bordering Los Cerritos Park in Long Beach. All three died.

Students, coaches and faculty at St. John Bosco have supported Awaida. Players attended a funeral. He returned to class two weeks ago and football has been a positive distraction.


“It’s nice being able to take your mind off things for a while,” he said.

Awaida, 5 feet 11 and 217 pounds, is St. John Bosco’s No. 1 tight end. With the team’s many outstanding receivers, the tight end doesn’t get too many opportunities to catch passes. He’s usually playing the role of glorified lineman, helping block for the running backs.

“He’s a hard-working, great kid,” Munson said.

Uiagalelei saw Awaida wide open as he felt pressure from a pass rush.


“I was just happy I didn’t overthrow him,” he said. “He made a great catch.”

Teammates started jumping up and down on the sideline.

Munson makes it clear how the St. John Bosco community feels about Awaida.

“There’s nothing we can say to Adam other than we love you and are here for you,” he said. “Being back at school with people who care about him and support him and give him an opportunity to get away from the craziness of life.”


Awaida will join his teammates on Thanksgivingto practice for Saturday’s championship game. They have his back as he tries to move forward.

“It’s just day by day doing what I can,” Awaida said.