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Puka Nacua's causes for My Cause My Cleats honor mother and late father

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Puka Nacua's mother and late father mean a lot to him. So much so, he chose two causes for My Cause My Cleats this week to honor them.

"My father passed away at a young age due to Diabetes complications," Nacua said Wednesday. "So there's the Diabetes Foundation, (being) able to represent my father with the last name I carry, but also kind of bring awareness to that particular area. And then Single Moms Planet, in that time of my father passing, I grew very close to my mom, I think I would definitely say I'm a mama's boy, for sure. I think I'm my mom's favorite, if I could go out and say that. But just that relationship I had with my mom and all the sacrifices she made for me, being able to – it's not necessarily a repayment of her, but trying to let her know that I'm eternally grateful for everything that she's done for me and helping me get to where I am."

Nacua lost his father, Lionel, to Diabetes complications right before turning 12 years old. Lionel's dream was to his sons play football for BYU. Kai wound up playing safety for the Cougars, then Samson and Puka later transferred into the program from their previous schools.

"It's so funny, I think of like a master planner, like (head) coach (Sean) McVay in a sense," Puka said on Rams Revealed this week of his father. "Just somebody who can see everything happening before it does, and the ability to put the right people in place, and to have the energy and to create the camaraderie and unity. I think of all the times that, being the younger brother, where I got dressed up and put in the back yard just to be a tackling dummy, and all those (moments) where it was like, 'aw, dad!'

"I'm sure there's no chance I signed up to do that willing, but all the chances and the things I would do to go back and relive that moment to be the tackling dummy, to see if I could beat my brothers. But also the times that I got beat up and I was so sad, but at dinner, the way he was able to bring us all together and for us to have so much fun, to always teach us, the people around you, to always take care of them and treat them like family. That's something I try to carry into the football environment every day."

After Lionel's death, Puka's mother, Penina, successfully raised Puka and his five siblings – four brothers and one sister – as a single parent. Penina remains a continual source of strength for Puka.

"Strength," Puka said on Rams Revealed, when asked by Voice of the Rams J.B. Long about what she has meant to his upbringing and him as a person and football player. "My mom is full Samoan, my grandma came from Western Samoa, so that's the number one word I think that comes to my mind when I think of my mom – strength. My father passed away when I was a young kid, and she raised five boys and one girl, and just the struggles she always had to made sure that she made us recognize, but also the things that she had also sacrificed for us, of having all the boys and the struggles that she had gone through.

"But the strength to continue to push on and to be there in all the significant moments for me, and especially for my siblings, being the younger one, of watching her find a way to go to practice over here, go to practice over there, be at this game, and to be a team mom, and all those things. The things that she sacrificed and the strength that that requires is something that I hold dear to my heart. People see strength through me, but I have a strength source of my own, as well."

The Diabetes Foundation's mission is to improve the health and wellness of individuals living with or at-risk of diabetes through equitable, accessible, compassionate, high-quality care, while Single Moms Planet partners with financial and business institutions to support it in delivering programs and resources that educate single mothers.

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