Sandy Pu’a, the offensive line coach who helped mold Allan Hancock College’s football program into a rushing juggernaut, died Friday morning.
Pu’a was an all-conference lineman for the Bulldogs during the 1997 and 1998 seasons before transferring to Southwestern Oklahoma State. He also played for two seasons in the Arena Football League.
He returned to Hancock as an assistant coach in 2003. Then-head coach Kris Dutra described him as “part of the fabric of the program.”
His blocking schemes and leadership helped Hancock develop into one of the top running teams in California community college football.
“The word that comes to mind is consistent,” said current head coach Seth Damron, who worked with Pu’a as the team’s offensive coordinator. “You always knew what you were going to get from him.
“He was a man of few words but what he said meant a lot … and if you needed advice you would get wisdom with just a few words. We’re all going to miss him.”
Damron noted that Pu’a, a native of American Samoa, made a big impact on many young men.
“He was a coach for 17 years and was a consistent figure that pushed guys and made them work hard through every rep and drill, and that carries over to real life,” he said. “All those kids that came through, they were much better off when they left than when they got here.”
Four of his linemen from Hancock’s league championship team of 2017 received football scholarships to four-year universities.
“For me, the start of a football season will never be the same as the sound of his commands in working with the linemen always welcomed a new year,” Hancock athletic director Kim Ensign said. “He will be sorely missed.”
Pu’a is survived by his wife, Candy, and four children: sons Ely-Jah, Elyaz, Keyshawn, and daughter Key-annah. His sons all played football for Nipomo High School while his daughter is currently a standout pitcher for the school’s softball program.
An account at gofundme.com has been established to help support the Pu’a family.
Services will be held at the Hancock College football field on Feb. 20, with viewing at 10 a.m. and the funeral service at 11 a.m. A celebration of life with food and refreshments will follow at Nipomo Regional Park.