While reading through the first depth chart released by the University of Utah’s football coaches (yeah, I’m that big of a football geek), I noticed that one of Utah’s defensive players had changed his last name.
Utah has an abnormally high number of Polynesian players on its football team. I’ve been told that Utah’s football team is comprised of 1/3 Caucasian students, 1/3 minority students, and 1/3 Polynesian students. That unique makeup is largely due to Utah’s large Polynesian population.
Utah fans like to listen and eventually laugh at the national telecasters who inevitably butcher the Polynesian players’ names. I still haven’t heard a national telecaster get Star Lotulelei’s name right. (FYI, he is projected to be a top-5 draft pick in the NFL Draft this year.) But one of Utah’s other players used to get the most interesting pronunciations. His name was Nate Fakahafua. You can only imagine the types of pronunciations his last name got on national TV.
I noticed on the depth chart that Nate had changed his last name from Fakahafua to Orchard. I wondered about his reasons, so I started digging into articles about Nate that had been printed by the local newspapers in Salt Lake City. I eventually stumbled on an article titled Letters to Lily: Utah Football Player Writes His Own Story. The article didn’t really explain why Nate changed his last name, but it explained how Nate had become a father at the young age of 14.
Nate’s biological daughter’s name is Lily. His girlfriend became pregnant when they were both very young and in high school. Having a family scared Nate and he panicked and he didn’t attend the birth of his daughter. His girlfriend’s parents had been struggling to have another baby, and they eventually adopted Lily as their own. That was something the family thought would be controversial and lead to a lot of bitter feelings from Nate, but Nate loved how much that family loved his daughter and he was okay with the adoption. And that family has loved how much Nate loves Lily and how tender he has been with her when he’s had the opportunity to be around her.
Nate doesn’t get to see his daughter very often. He understands that he isn’t who Lily calls “dad,” but he knows one day Lily will come looking for him and he wants to make sure that he becomes somebody that she can look up to. In the meantime, Nate keeps a journal of letters that he writes to Lily. The letters are kept in a secret place in his house where nobody else can find them. At various times Nate will pull out the notebook of letters and write something for his daughter. When he is done he slides the notebook back in its hiding place. At some point in the future, maybe 15 years down the road, Nate will give his book of letters to his daughter.
When I finished reading the article, I came away very impressed with Nate, and his idea to write letters to his daughter over a long stretch of years is a brilliant idea that I am sure his daughter will one day deem to be a treasure.
It makes me wonder if I could do something similar for my daughters Knowing how much my daughters would love such a gift, I don’t think it’s something that I should wonder about—it’s something I should just do.
Photo Credit: Flickr
More on Babble Dad: