By PUYALLUP TRIBAL NEWS STAFF
Taima Mitchell is a Puyallup Tribal member and an 18-year-old freshman football player at the University of Puget Sound (UPS). As the first-generation male in his family to attend college, he has high ambitions, through academics and sports, to blaze new trails for his family and relatives. Puyallup Tribal News spoke with Taima about his success on the field and in the classroom:
Taima (pronounced Tum-a) is a powerful name. What does it mean?
Taima means thunder in Salish.
How does it translate to your life in sports?
You see lightning but you don’t see thunder, you hear it. I’m not flashy like lightning, but when I need to get my point across I will make myself heard. I’m not the type of person who’s trash talking. I’m more of a person who enjoys the game a lot, plays it, has a fun competitive game. I know that I can make my impact and how I need to make it. I’m definitely a major team player, and when we’re having team discussions, I will put my opinion out there when I have a comment that I feel will benefit or contribute to the team.
How did you realize, and at what age, your passion for football?
I’ve been playing football since the 5th grade with the Tacoma Panthers. I wasn’t very big and I had a large growth spurt in high school but I kept playing it because most my friends were playing and I didn’t want to be left out. But I’d say the year that I found true passion for it was probably my sophomore year when I fell in love with it.
What brought on that change your sophomore year?
In my freshman season, I ended up going to a public high school, made it on the JV team. But it was more like a group of individuals playing together, and not a team unit. Which is one of the reasons I ended up transferring. I ended up going to Bellerman Preparatory School, and that’s where I really fell in love with the game. And stepping into Bellerman, it was no longer a focus on the individuals, but a focus on the team, and how we could be collectively better together. And that’s where I found my true passion for it.
Did you experience any dif culties or setbacks during your time at Bellerman?
My junior year, I ended up fracturing my hip a week before the first game of the season. And it was hard, it was really difficult to go through, because I couldn’t really do anything but sit there and watch from the sidelines. But I was glad to be cheering on my team. It was at that moment I wanted to contribute more, and be a helpful human. I chose to start working out more, bounce back from my injury, and make myself stronger. It sparked a drive.
How was your senior year? What kind of opportunities did you see then?
I had an ambition to play college football, even when I was little. But it wasn’t until I had that injury that it made me want to go and keep on playing the sport. I felt like I was truly contributing to the team to my best ability, playing on defense, and trading offense.
My senior year I started getting college opportunities, from a lot of smaller colleges. And I thought maybe I could continue to do this, and work towards something. That’s when I decided I was going to go play football. I visited a couple of schools in California, but I decided to stay here in Tacoma at the University of Puget Sound.
How are you liking college?
I like it a lot. My teammates and I have a similar mindset. We want to do well and win. And we want to make each other better players and better men, and collectively grow as a group, together.
Is there an emphasis on academics at UPS?
Yes, there’s a big emphasis on education. We always talk about how football is a luxury. It’s not something you necessarily need, but a college education is something that will help you through the rest of your life. The coaches really emphasize how important it is to be studying, and we have to report our grades to them. They are constantly harping on us to do better. Our team goal is to collectively have a 4.0, because we don’t want to accept being a bare minimum, we want to strive to be the best we can, and reach for the best person we can be. We want to be the best team we can be, and that starts with academics.
There’s something special about being local, and coming from a culture, and the place where your ancestors are from, as a Puyallup Tribal member. What does it mean to play and be here on the next step of your journey?
I wouldn’t be in the position I am without my ancestors doing what they have done to give me this chance. Be it fighting for their rights, or fighting for the rights of their future generations, and generations even after me. It didn’t come easily. I can’t say how thankful I am. And I want to do something in return. My major is General Biology and a minor in Policy and Decision Making.
I chose that because I’ve always had an interest in the environment. I grew up fishing, crabbing and whatnot, and I want to be able to contribute to that and help conserve wildlife and waterlife for future generations. It’s my way of giving back what has been given to me. I’m so thankful, I can’t stress that enough.
How do you feel your ancestors are looking on you now in relation to your sports and your academics?
I hope that they’d be proud. And I’m just hoping I can start a trend for my younger siblings and cousins, and even other members of the Tribe. It’s possible, and if you set your mind you can go do it and succeed. I hope I can be that trend starter to make everyone else want to go to college and be able to contribute to something greater than themselves.
What are the lessons in football or sports that you have learned that you apply to your life as a Puyallup man?
We’re stronger together. That’s the biggest thing I’ve ever learned, is that we’re stronger together. Not when we take on individual tasks, not when we drift off from each other, but when we put our noses in the same direction and say we’re here, we want this to change. When we collectively come together. And that’s how it is with the team, when you are trying to be individual superstars, you’re not going to have a successful team.