Local football fans probably remember Shane Pahukoa as an exceptionally fast, hard-hitting defensive back who starred at the University of Washington.
What is the 1989 Marysville-Pilchuck High School graduate up to these days? Instead of “laying the wood” on opponents — a euphemism used to describe a solid hit on the gridiron — Pahukoa is using wood to craft home furnishings.
Pahukoa, who started at free safety on Washington’s undefeated 1991 team that beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl, is a custom furniture warehouse manager in Los Angeles.
“I went from tough football player to designing furniture,” Pahukoa said in a phone interview this week.
Meanwhile, his brother, 1987 Marysville-Pilchuck grad Jeff Pahukoa, stayed closer to his roots.
Jeff Pahukoa, a 1990 Pac-10 All-Conference first-team lineman at Washington, is an assistant football coach at Lake Stevens High School.
It’s an ideal time to catch up with the Pahukoas because on Friday Marysville will celebrate its 100th year of high school football. The brothers, two of five former M-P players who made it to the NFL, are among the best-known athletes the school has produced.
They were excited when they found out M-P planned to honor past coaches and players.
“It’s a great thing that the program has the opportunity to celebrate this. I think it’s a great thing for the kids that are involved to understand that there’s been a tradition there for many years,” said Jeff Pahukoa, an all-state offensive tackle and defensive lineman in 1986.
“I’m a real believer in, ‘You should study your history and where you came from.’ I think it’s really important,” Shane Pahukoa said.
Asked to recall their most vivid memories of playing prep football, the Pahukoas had many.
Jeff Pahukoa, an electrician for Kimberly-Clark, remembered how former M-P head coach Chuck Solberg always had football on his mind.
“He would write plays on anything. He could write plays on toilet paper,” Jeff Pahukoa said.
Shane Pahukoa fondly remembers playing on the varsity as a sophomore and, as an option quarterback, benefiting from his brother’s devastating blocks.
“That was pretty cool,” Shane Pahukoa said. “It was exciting.”
Before the brothers teamed up at Washington, Shane Pahukoa blossomed into a dangerous running back at M-P. During a game against Shorecrest his senior year he rushed for about 260 yards and five touchdowns — in the first half.
“They had no answer. He was so talented,” said Scott Stokes, whose first year as M-P’s head coach was Shane Pahukoa’s senior season.
The Tomahawks had a huge lead by halftime so Stokes benched his starters, including Pahukoa. If Pahukoa had stayed in the game he likely would have rushed for 500 yards, Stokes said.
Stokes got to know the Pahukoa brothers well. Before becoming head coach, Stokes served as the team’s offensive-line coach. He worked closely with Jeff Pahukoa.
“We knew even as a high school kid he was immensely talented,” Stokes said of Jeff Pahukoa, who was 6-foot-3 and weighed about 275 pounds as a prep senior. Still, it was impossible to predict how far the lineman would go, Stokes said.
The most impressive thing about Jeff Pahukoa, whose NFL career included four years with the Rams and two years with the Falcons, was his humble personality, Stokes said: “He would come back from his NFL season and work with kids. He was not vain, not egotistical.”
Shane Pahukoa, who played defensive back and special teams for the New Orleans Saints, was quieter than his brother, Stokes said, but similarly grounded.
“He was just a pleasure to coach,” Stokes said, “and a good kid to be around — real popular with teammates.”
Shane Pahukoa overcame a childhood accident that resulted in severe burns on his body, including his face. When he was 8, a small fire at a family gathering in Vancouver, Wash., suddenly erupted when his cousin added too much fuel. Shane spent about six weeks in the hospital and wore a protective mask when he returned to school.
The experience was difficult, he said, but it motivated him to excel in athletics.
“I really do think it kind of helped me show people that I was able to do things,” Shane Pahukoa said.
Football isn’t the only thing the Pahukoa brothers have in common: They married their high school sweethearts and each have three children.
Jeff Pahukoa plans to continue coaching football in Lake Stevens, where he lives. “I enjoy what I do now tremendously,” he said.
When he’s not designing high-end furniture, Shane Pahukoa is still involved in sports, too. He coaches his 10-year-old son’s soccer team.
Writer Mike Cane: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam.