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Shelley Oliverson
Senior defensive back Helaman Sosi is the "heartbeat" of the Jaguar defense. He chose to play football despite suffering a traumatic brain injury as a toddler.

WEST JORDAN — Every time Helaman Sosi steps onto the football field, he feels gratitude in ways that many players never do.

That’s because a childhood accident nearly ended his life, and it is a constant threat to his pursuit of the sport he loves.

In fact, he’s lucky his mother even allowed him to sign up for Little League all those years ago.

“My mom never wanted me to play football,” said the West Jordan linebacker. “It’s a mother thing, and I understand where it’s coming from. My dad let me do what I felt I needed to do, and luckily, she supported it.”

Sosi understands that his mother’s concerns were not just irrational, parental fear. In fact, he acknowledges a vicious scar on the side of his head that reminds him how precarious his relationship with football — and life — actually is.

" He’s just a really great kid. … He’s had one A-minus in his entire career, he volunteers for his church, prom king, he’s just a great example. He’s everything you like about a kid. "
Mike Meifu

When Sosi was just 18 months old, a teenage cousin was carrying him on his shoulders.

“He accidentally dropped me on the asphalt,” Sosi said. “That caused internal swelling, and doctors had to operate on my head. They actually opened up my head and did their magic.”

Sosi made a full recovery, but his mom wasn’t thrilled when he asked if he could play football for his uncle. He said there were a lot of discussions, and he eventually earned the support of both of his parents, with one caveat.

“My mom tries to make it to every practice, every game, to make sure I’m safe,” he said. “I know it’s coming from a mother’s love. I just always loved the game of football, so I wanted to at least finish my high school career.”

It is a good thing for the West Jordan Jaguars that Sosi’s mom decided to let him play football, as he became a cornerstone of Mike Meifu’s defense as a freshman.

“He’s a team captain and kind of the heart and soul of our team really,” Meifu said. “He’s just a really great kid. … He’s had one A-minus in his entire career, he volunteers for his church, prom king, he’s just a great example. He’s everything you like about a kid.”

Sosi’s three interceptions are not only among the best in 6A, his play has helped the Jaguars to a 2-0 start. One of those victories included Friday’s 48-26 victory over Kearns, where one of his uncles coaches and some of his cousins play.

“I saw Kearns on my schedule, and I wanted to get my revenge,” he said, referring to West Jordan’s 2017 loss to the Cougars. “I wanted to beat my family.” Sosi’s appreciation for his senior season is more acute after a frightening incident last season when he became disoriented during West Jordan’s game against Copper Hills. As he drove to the hospital with his family, he didn’t even try to hold back the tears that streaked his face as he rode to the hospital last fall.

“I cried because I knew if there was something wrong with my head, it was over,” the senior defensive back said. “I know how sensitive my situation is. I’ve just never really thought it would be over. I just love this game too much.”

It turned out to be dehydration, but Sosi said he takes nothing for granted, while Meifu said they take all the precautions they can to keep Sosi safe and on the field.

“When I first got here, I knew he’d had a head injury, and I didn’t know if he was going to be able to play or not,” Meifu said. “We talk with his parents a lot. It’s kind of always at the forefront of the football season. … It’s a concern, so we really keep an eye on him.”

Shelley Oliverson
Senior defensive back Helaman Sosi is the "heartbeat" of the Jaguar defense. He chose to play football despite suffering a traumatic brain injury as a toddler.

Despite the realities of his situation, Meifu said Sosi plays with passion and commitment that has made him not just one of West Jordan’s best, but one of the most talented outside linebackers in the state.

“He doesn’t play that way,” he said of the caution his parents and coaches take with him. “He’s as fearless as anybody there is out there on the field.”

Sosi said that football has given him numerous life lessons that have helped in all aspects of his life.

“I love the lessons it teaches me,” he said. “I come from a very big family — there are 14 of us kids. I was never babied, and I’m the second to youngest.” The game and his upbringing, he said, have instilled in him a work ethic that is driven by more than praise, good grades or even victories on the field.

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“Football has taught me that when times are tough, you’ve got to keep pushing,” he said. “That’s how you get through things. The most unique thing about football is that it teaches toughness, but at the same time, you have to be composed. You can’t just go knock heads. You not only have to be physically tough, but you also have to learn mental toughness.”

So the game, he said, offers him lessons in toughness while also showing him how resilient he is.

“Those are traits,” Sosi said, “that you want to have in life.”