Ohio State's Enokk Vimahi seeks to inspire more Hawaiians to play football

Lori Schmidt
The Columbus Dispatch

Offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi has played in every game Ohio State football has kicked off in 2022, including the team's most recent win, a 54-10 blowout of Iowa. Now in his fourth season with the Buckeyes, he has three years of eligibility remaining.

He was part of OSU's 2019 recruiting class and was considered a four-star prospect, playing guard for Kahuku High School in Hawaii. He participated in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl and Polynesian Hall of Fame Bowl before coming to Columbus.

Although he speaks openly of his desire to be the next in the line of 17 Kahuku players to already join the NFL, Vimahi is a well-rounded young man who says he works hard to improve mentally, spiritually and physically every day.

Meet the Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi gets ready to block Iowa defensive lineman Logan Lee.

Get to know Enokk Vimahi

How many times have you texted your brother (Utah defensive tackle Aliki Vimahi) the score of the Rose Bowl?

I haven't texted him, but we have brought it up once or twice in family meetings. I try to take the high road and let the past be the past, but it feels pretty good. I can't lie.

How many brothers and sisters do you have?

I have three older brothers and one younger sister. I'm the youngest boy. I'm four of five.

I know you have talked about his passing before, but after losing your father (Dave Vimahi died in November 2021 due to complications of a recurring heart condition), how much of a blessing was it that you were part of a team where mental health and leaning on each other is part of the culture?

It was, honestly, I don't want to sound really dramatic, but I want to say it saved me. You hear about Harry Miller and all that he's done for mental health, especially here. We came in together in the 2019 class, and he's been a guy who whenever I need a text, or call or just have him come over, he's the guy to talk to in terms of that. He's never selfish. And with what coach Day is doing, appointing our sports psych, I feel like this is the best place to be in terms of mental health and working on it and really self-reflecting on what you have done and what has surrounded you.

Your brother, as a Mormon, went on a two-year missions trip. Is that something you considered doing?

That was something I considered doing my freshman year, and then I had a talk with my parents, at the time. And we felt that it was the best for me physically, mentally, spiritually to stay here. It definitely was not an easy decision because that's something, you're brought up in the church, it's your duty, you know? But I was glad that my parents were very receptive, and they knew where I was coming from. The one thing that they did tell me was to give my all into this, so that's what I have to do.

Ohio State offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi sings "Carmen Ohio" following a 54-10 win over Iowa.

What's it like being a part of a team where most of your teammates, certainly the ones most vocal about their faith, are Christians?

One thing that, when I was on my visit, that coach Day made clear was that we're going to get you better in all facets of your life. We obviously focus on the physical and maybe even the mental, but one thing that really sold me on coming here was the spiritual aspect of it. You can see coach Day does a great job with that. You know we have our Sunday reflections and even our reflection before games. That's like the perfect time before and after games to give thanks to our heavenly father for all that he's done for us.

That's really cool because it tells me that spirituality is welcomed ...

Regardless of what your faith is. Yes. That is very cool, and it's very inviting. And one thing that has really kind of impressed me with everyone is how ... great everyone has accepted everything. And I feel like once we as athletes, especially here at this great university, once we realize that, that's when we really start to get the work done; because we realize we're maybe in a higher position, on a pedestal, in comparison to a lot of people who are 18 to 21 years old.

You have used that pedestal before. What causes are important to you and how important is it to use that pedestal to espouse them?

I try to be vocal, not so much on social media as much as in everyday life. I rarely use social media platforms. I have them, but ... social media can be toxic. But anytime I get a chance to, like (Black Lives Matter) or beach cleanups back home in Hawaii, bringing awareness ... I feel like a lot of problems and heated conversations can be solved with simple communication.

Because people aren't ignorant, but they may be walled off.

Yeah. Just not exposed to certain things. And that's something that I myself (have experienced). Here I was exposed to the Midwest culture – how everyone is moving, working. Everyone is blue-collar. If they want to get the job done, the job's going to get done. And that's something that's definitely rubbed off on me.

Right. That's something I wanted to ask you about. You lived in Hawaii. Why would you ever leave?

It's funny you say that. I feel like every other week, or almost every other day now, I get asked that question.

Well, I notice your coat is even heavier than mine, and I get cold easily.

So, one thing that my mom and I spoke about is not only doing this for myself in terms of coming to Ohio State, but for future generations. At the time, I didn't want to really look at myself as this guy who is setting ways for the next generation, but when I reflected on it, it's true. Other guys have come before me like Tua (Tagovailoa, quarterback of the Miami Dolphins), like Wayne Taulapapa, who went to Virginia and is now back in Washington, but guys weren't afraid to step out of their comfort zone. And what wasn't my comfort zone when I first got here, is definitely – Columbus is home.

What was the biggest adjustment?

I would say the seasons, but they're cool, especially autumn. Just seeing the leaves change and getting a little breezier outside. ... It's the best moment to put on your fall and winter outfits, just to look a little cool.

I bet you look great in a cardigan.

I try. I try.

Ohio State offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi jogs on to the field during a Sept. 17 game against Toledo.

Who is the best dresser on the Buckeyes?

Oh, my gosh. We had this conversation earlier.

Who were you talking fashion with?

It was just all in the locker room.

OK. So it was Terajda Mitchell.

(laughs) His clothing brand, I wouldn't be surprised if in the next five years if it takes off because the quality of his brand is better than some name brands. Like, the fabric that he has for his shirts, it's perfect.

He needs to hire you.

Oh, I would promote his stuff like nobody else. I would wear it every day.

Can you sign an NIL deal with a teammate?

That would be cool. But to do back your first question, I would probably say (Marvin Harrison Jr.). You saw the Apple Watch and the Louis Vitton shoes. It's kind of hard to top that. He's best dressed in game, that's something you don't see a lot.

What music do you listen to?

I am an R&B baby until the day that I die. Kind of our favorite, our family favorite artist, we talk about it all the time, is Luther Vandross. Every time I hear his voice, it always reminds me of my father.

Could he sing?

Yes, he could. He could. And music is a very important thing in our family, especially in my life. Music helps me keep going throughout the day. It helps me to mellow out. It helps me to get excited. All those things. And R&B in particular, you get all the spectrums from maybe the fast-paced modern R&B to the slowed down. And the thing I love about R&B is that most of the time the main message is love. And that has been something that is a part of my life and still is. ... It surrounds us, and I believe that's the most powerful thing in the universe is love.

Anything else you want Buckeye fans you want to know about you?

My mom definitely wants me to speak on this, my name is pronounced EE-nik. A lot of people do get it mixed up because my nickname is Knock. So I kind of set myself up there.

How did you get the nickname Knock?

I like to say I used to knock people out, but one thing I want people to know about me is that I'm more than just a football player. I have taken this whole experience of playing at Ohio State, like The Ohio State, you talk about top of the line, this is it. And things have maybe not gone my way. There have been trials, tribulations and everything like that, but as long as you surround yourself with great people, surround yourself with great messages and affirmations, I believe that's the biggest thing, and continuing to go on each day. I like to use the word trekking because walking sounds like everything is cool, everything is calm, right? So I like to use the word trek because there's going to be stuff thrown at you, and you think of the word trek you think of climbing a mountain or going up, like, the Alps trekking through snow. I feel like if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you'll eventually get where you want to go.

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