Penei Sewell is the lone underclassman starter on a Ducks offensive line that has been tabbed as one of the best units in the country.
Those kinds of expectations typically come with pressure, especially for a true sophomore looking to follow up a 2018 season in which he was named to USA Today’s Freshman All-American team. But for Sewell, nothing that happens on the football field could ever be bigger than making his family, and the Polynesian culture, proud.
“It means everything,” Sewell said. “Putting on for the island, putting on for the Poly culture, for all the kids growing up that wish they were in my shoes. Just being a role model to them is huge.”
Sewell cites his dad as his biggest influence, both in football and in life. His dad was a coach, even for teams Sewell wasn’t on, so he had no choice but to fall in love with the game at an early age. He credits his exposure to football as a young kid as one of the reasons he was able to step in as a freshman and immediately make an impact.
“I was always around the game,” Sewell said. “I would always help him with the bags, I would always set up practice. Shoot, when I was younger - like fifth or sixth grade - I was yelling at the high school players at one point. I acted like I was a coach.”
His brother, Noah, is a five-star recruit in the class of 2020 and is being recruited by some of the biggest programs in the nation - Oregon, Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ohio State to name a few. Penei feels a responsibility as the older brother to be there for Noah as he makes one of the biggest decisions of his life, but also recognizes the value in Noah making the best decision for himself.
“This is the one time you gotta make a big-boy decision,” Penei said of his brother’s college choice. “This is your future. If he needs help, he hits me up. I’ll give him a little advice. But other than that, it’s all him.”
Penei himself is projected by many sources as a future first-round NFL Draft pick; DraftSite.com has him in the top five overall. A lot of players would use that platform to forget where they came from. For Sewell, it’s an opportunity to represent his roots.
“Hopefully, once my platform is bigger, I can give back and start helping out the community and the Polynesian people,” Sewell said. “Just representing them is a warm-hearted feeling, and I’m proud. Proud to always put on, to always represent.”
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