Linebacker Scheyenne Sanitoa, who was about to begin his junior season in Manoa, was reported dead today by the University of Hawaii football program.
Sanitoa, 21, of Fagatogo, American Samoa, died on Thursday.
— Hawaii Football (@HawaiiFootball) July 5, 2019
In addition to the tweeted statement from UH, the athletic department put out this statement from athletic director David Matlin: “It’s with deep sorrow that we share the tragic news that Scheyenne Sanitoa, a student-athlete with our Rainbow Warrior football team, passed away yesterday at the age of 21. Scheyenne was a tremendous young man and we are devastated by this news.
“Earlier today, the football team was brought together to discuss the tragedy. Campus counselors were on hand and will continue to be available for all student-athletes and staff to help with the healing process.
“It’s always heartbreaking to lose a member of our UH ‘ohana, particularly when it’s one of our young student-athletes. Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with his family, his friends, his teammates, and to all those who knew and loved him.”
Sanitoa, at 6 feet and 220 pounds, appeared in 12 games in 2018 as a redshirt sophomore for UH, starting two. He recorded 30 tackles (21 solo), including four for loss, with two sacks. It was a big jump up in responsibility for him from the previous year, when he was a reserve and special teams player.
UPDATE: According to beat writer Stephen Tsai, head coach Nick Rolovich, who brought in Sanitoa as one of his first recruits, was notified of Sanitoa’s death on the mainland and was en route back to the islands on Friday afternoon.
He graduated from Samoana High School in Utulei, American Samoa, in 2016. He played free safety there and later participated in the JPS Paradise Classic at Aloha Stadium.
According to his UH bio, he had four brothers and two sisters.
The social media outpourings for Sanitoa began before the official word from UH, then kept coming in long afterward. Hashtags of “#Sanitoa” and “#RIP41” began to circulate.
Can’t get my head around this…to anyone reading this, if you’re going through anything or ever need help, always know there’s someone there for you! For all my loved ones, I’m always here to be that open ear and help for you! Rest in Love uso! Alofa atu uso Scheyenne!!! https://t.co/mkczOzjaeK
— Jahlani Tavai (@tavai31) July 5, 2019
Forever in our hearts, once a warrior, always a WARRIOR. Rest easy my braddah 🙏🏽 https://t.co/1f6fcR6Zel
— Zeno Choi (@zeno_choi) July 6, 2019
— Coach JMack (@4Jmack) July 5, 2019
— Rob DeMello (@RobDeMelloKHON) July 5, 2019
Rest in Paradise youngin……gone way too soon….
— RJ Hollis (@arejayhollis) July 5, 2019
Rest in Peace. pic.twitter.com/2yUqmmvW3U
— Cody Krupp (@CodyWKrupp) July 6, 2019
I just can’t believe bro!!!! We literally talked about my first college game and how we are going to make the family proud😔 I ain’t stopping now big bro. I just can’t believe like damn😞 Lord pls be with my family🙏🏽 #RipBigBro😔 #SANITOA pic.twitter.com/DOChSzVvrY
— Lil-Uce1 (@EddieSiaumau1) July 5, 2019
– your hard work never goes unnoticed ! Thank you for an extraordinary , phenomenal journey that puts Am. Samoa on the map🇦🇸❤️ Rest In Peace to this young beautiful soul, SCHEYENNE SANITOA ❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/kkT8FuIcCm
— itsreeezzzzz (@_rissah17) July 5, 2019
News of Sanitoa’s death spread to national outlets like ESPN.