Family guy: Palaie Gaoteote proud of his parents, siblings and ancestors
Palaie Gaoteote (pronounced PAH-lah-ee-aye NAH-oh-tay-oh-tay) has been Ohio State’s special teams player of the week twice this season, and when he was knicked up in a 52-21 win over Wisconsin, OSU's special teams struggled somewhat.
Gaoteote also plays linebacker, as he did at USC before he transferred in June 2021. He registered 105 tackles, including 7.5 for loss, and two sacks in three seasons with the Trojans.
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Before that, Gaoteote was USA Today’s All-Nevada Defensive Player of the Year and Polynesian High School Football Player of the Year finalist at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, the school also attended by his cousin, former OSU All-American Haskell Garrett.
Gaoteote’s uncle is Ma’a Tanuvasa, who was a defensive end at Hawaii (1990-92) and then with the Denver Broncos (1995-2000), where he won two Super Bowls, but that’s just part of what makes his family’s story so compelling.
Get to know Palaie Gaoteote
So you are Palaie Gaoteote IV. How much do you know about the history of the name?
I know a lot. ... My great grandfather was the high chief of our village, one of the first ones. So he shared the title of Gaoteote. In the Polynesian culture, your last name is really your family title. And my grandfather currently is the high chief of our village, and he did a lot of work in Samoa. He was the president of the senate at one point, two or three years ago. Now he just lives the retired life. My father just retired from the military in 2014. He's living his retired life too.
So do you have a title? I honestly do not know how this works. Are you the low chief of your village?
I don't know. They just call me "Little E.A." So when I'm around those three, I'm the one doing all the little errands for them, running around. I kind of just let them do their old guy stuff while I'm being a young guy.
What about your mom? I have never met a military wife who hasn't sacrificed a whole lot.
Oh, for sure. My mom, she works for the VA right now. But growing up, she worked. I don't really know what she was doing back then, but definitely, when my father was deployed, she stepped up and played both roles as a parent. So I think she did a good job with the way me and my siblings turned out.
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So your father was deployed?
When I was about 8, he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and then came back. A few years after that, got redeployed as a military operations trainer, and he was going across the world to help train, like, people in the Philippines and stuff like that.
You went to Bishop Gorman high school in Las Vegas. Before that, did you move around a lot?
I was born and raised in Hawaii. When I was about 1, like right after I was born, I moved to American Samoa. And then we got restationed to Hawaii, and I was there pretty much my whole life until I was a sophomore in high school. And that's when I moved stateside to Las Vegas.
Was that a football move?
So you've lived in Hawaii...
Now you're in Columbus, I'm sure there's got to be a stereotype when you've lived in those other places of what Columbus is. So what was the reality compared to what you expected it to be?
I'm used to a fast pace of life. When you live in Hawaii, California, Las Vegas, life goes by really, really fast. So coming out to the Midwest, definitely not a lot going on here ... as far as stuff to do, activities and stuff.
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Hawaii is faster-paced than Columbus? What happened to the Aloha culture?
I mean, I said it was fast just because I lived there all my life, so I know the ins and outs of the place. I know everywhere I can go.
So part of it is just familiarity?
What is the worst thing that you've ever gotten away with but don't feel guilty about?
I will say I snuck out a little bit in high school and never really got caught. So I would just say taking my mom's car when they're not aware of it.
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What's the historical moment you will always remember where you were when it happened?
When COVID first hit and football got shut down, I had just got done with practice at USC's campus, walking out of the facility, and we got a text on our app that said that we didn't have practice until November something. And then we had team meetings after that. And so I definitely remember vividly where I was at when COVID first started really popping up, and they started shutting down football.
OK, that is an awful way to find that out.
Yeah. Right after practice, just shut it down. "Football is over, and we'll get back to you. We don't know if it's a guarantee that it will come back anytime soon."
Who was the text message from? The Pac-12 or maybe the athletic director?
It was from the AD, but texted through the team.
So it went out to the entire athletic department?
What is the thing that you learned about yourself during the COVID lockdown?
How patient I was. When you're playing football and you want everything to go fast, fast, fast; you want everything to work out – it didn't work like that in COVID. So you kind of had to be patient with things and understand that the world was going to restart in some type of way. So definitely just being patient with time, patient with people, patient with things. I know people were going crazy with Uber Eats not getting to their house, so yeah. Just patience.
What's something that Ohio State fans might be surprised to learn about you?
I would say my music selection. I feel like a lot of people think I listen to just rap, but I listen to everything – country, classical, alternative, indie, pretty much anything with a good little vibe. If I like it, I like it.
Do you have a favorite Broadway musical?
Do movie musicals count?
I like "Sweeney Todd."
What is your favorite childhood memory?
I remember vividly that I was at one of my older cousin's graduation parties, and I fell off of a tree. But on my way down, I caught a branch. I cut the inside of my leg, and it was a huge gash. I just remember falling down and getting up and thinking I was OK. My cousin was like, "Why are your pants all red?" And I looked down, and it was all bloody. It was like a little horror film scene. But I was just like, "Oh." Just ran over to my mom calmly, and just told her, "Oh, mom, look!" You know little kids: "Just look!" They ain't got no fear. My mom was like, "Oh, my gosh. We got to go." So, (I remember) being so calm, and that's when I got in the car crying because I thought I was going to die.
What is the nicest gift you have ever given somebody?
Probably a little photo box. I gave my girlfriend a little photo box with little memories we've had. We've been together for quite a while. So definitely that little photo box. It's kind of like a scrapbook, so it brings a lot of memories back.
Wow. I think you just made every dude on this team with a girlfriend look really bad.
It's all right. They do stuff like that too. Sometimes.
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And how many siblings do you have?
Two other ones. Brother, sister. My sister's name is Kayla, and my brother's name is Ma'a. He plays at Michigan State right now. I'm the oldest.
So your brother is in Michigan. Where's your sister right now?
She's at school in Las Vegas. Right now since we're all spread out, we don't really get to see each other too often. But when we do, it's a big – a really big – gathering. We're throwing 10 steaks on the grill, bunch of ribs, chicken, and we just have a big barbecue session with my entire family that lives in Vegas or people who are visiting. So it's definitely a good time.
I don't think I could pass for a family member, or that sounds like the kind of party I would crash.
Oh, come through! It's always an open invite. We've got a lot of food.