"High Motor" Palu Becomes Leader, Eyes Pac-12

Star two-way lineman assumes important role as junior and lone returning starter for BHS football.

Benji Palu was 14 when he made the most important discovery of his football life.

Admittedly in a little bit over his head when he was called up to Burlingame High’s varsity as a freshman, Palu needed to find a way to keep up with players who were bigger, stronger, faster and more advanced.

Realizing that he had to channel all of his intensity into every play, it was on a practice field that he found his “high motor.” 

“I believe I developed the ‘high motor’ playing against guys that were older than me,” said Palu, who’s now a junior two-way lineman.

“It gave me a reality check,” he said. “It woke me up and showed me, this is what I need to do, that this is the level I need to play at.”

The high motor enabled him to keep up. Palu held his own as a freshman and emerged as an impact player his sophomore year.

Palu, a 6-foot, 275-pounder hopes to impart the spirit of “high motor” to his younger teammates as he assumes a leadership role this season. Palu is the only returning starter on a Panthers team that suffered heavy graduation losses.

Burlingame opens its season with a non-league game at Saratoga on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

“The heart, I can’t give them,” Palu said, “but I tell them that the game of football is played with a high motor and that they need to come out with a high motor.” 

The “high motor” is part of what makes Palu among the Peninsula Athletic League’s best linemen on either side of the ball, Burlingame coach John Philipopoulos said.

“He’s just a really good all-around player with a great work ethic and a good attitude,” Philipopoulos said.

Palu has excellent aptitude and plays a fundamentally sound technical game, which Philipopoulos attributes to his Pop Warner football background.

Philipopoulos had to file a petition with the Central Coast Section when he wanted to bring him up to the varsity because he was younger than 15 at the time.

“It was obvious that he was beyond the frosh-soph level physically and mentally,” Philipopoulos said of the decision bring Palu up to the varsity two years ago.

Palu is a Division I prospect, Philipopoulos said, noting that he projects to play center in college. Palu plays guard on the offensive and defensive lines.

Palu said he’s wanted to play Division I ball since he was in eighth grade. He’s partial to the Pac-12 Conference, noting that USC, Stanford, Cal, Oregon and UCLA, are among his favorites.

He plans to major in criminal justice with a minor in psychology, and eventually wants to pursue a career in law enforcement, following in the footsteps of an uncle he lives with who’s a probation officer.

“I like the tenacity of all the guys and the high motor they all play with,” he said of the Pac-12. “I could find myself quickly adapting to it. I think I’d be able to play with them.”

When Palu was initially called up to the varsity, coaches took note of how he handled himself on and off the field, Philipopoulos said.

“He showed me that we had something special,” the coach said.

Palu said he was embraced by his older teammates when he joined the varsity as a freshman, who apparently respected his ultra-intense playing style.

“Everyday I went out there as a freshman on the varsity thinking I had something to prove,” he said. “(The older players) competed against me, but in the end I always went out with a high motor knowing that if I was going to go head-up with one of my teammates I would go full speed as if I was playing a regular Friday night game.”

Kalolaine August 31, 2011 at 04:27 PM
Keep up the hard work Benji! We r proud of u! Go big and go all out. Every effort u put in counts. And study study study! Love d article!
kosini August 31, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Hard work will pay off Benji- good luck to you and the Panthers this season!
Jacquie August 31, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Dedication is key! Keep your eye on the prize and you will succeed. You are doing great and we look forward to seeing your college games. Go Benji Go!
Manu August 31, 2011 at 06:43 PM
That's what i'm talking about Benji. Love the article.Play hard and play smart.Take those young guys under ur wing and show them how it's done. Good luck this year and have fun.........Let's go after them Panthers.................from ur uncle Manu
Anjessello August 31, 2011 at 07:33 PM
ohh oh, got a big time gamer from the bay area, love to see you on the NFL and say, "That's that guy"
Malina Laupua August 31, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Drive and love of the game Benji is what you have. That's very special. Your family, school, and community must be very proud. All the work and initiative you take will get you to where you want to be in life. Good luck this season!
A August 31, 2011 at 07:45 PM
Love the Article. Keep shining Benji don't let anything or anyone get in your way. You have become such a huge roll model for so many. We are all so proud of you!!!! Looking forward to watching you excel and be at the top of your game this season! GO BENJI!!!!!
Tricia August 31, 2011 at 07:56 PM
Great article...Way to go Benj! What an impression you've made on all of Burlingame. Keep it going and show the rest what you got. We're so proud of you! 'Ofa atu.
Soana August 31, 2011 at 08:19 PM
GOOOOO Benji!! In it to win it! Looking forward to your football career! 'ofa atu
Claudia Latu August 31, 2011 at 10:10 PM
BENJI!!!! So proud of you and your accomplishments!!! Nothing but the best wishes to you Benji!!! and keep up your hard work and never loose sight!! Go for the stars!! We Love you!! Tia, Wes, Siaosi and Saniya Rose Latu!!
Yvonne Casperson September 01, 2011 at 12:07 AM
Great article!! So proud of you Benji!!! Keep up the hard work & reach for the stars!!! Never give up on what you want....follow your heart & your dreams, you can never go wrong. Stay blessed!!!
Mele Liongitau-Palu September 01, 2011 at 08:36 PM
Rich Daly September 01, 2011 at 08:53 PM
Benji, I am very proud of you. Just remember when you are resting someone is working out, so work harder. Take it from me. Hit the books!!!!! Without grades it makes it difficult to fulfill your dreams. Keep up all the hard work, your not finished, it is only the beginning. We look forward to watching you play. Continue to improve and continue to make everyone proud. Holla at your boy if you need anything. Love Rich and Shannon Daly


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