East coach Brandon Matich calls him special and readily admits that the shy and quiet manchild has a chance to be the best running back he's ever coached.
Isaac Valles is unafraid to heap a bit of pressure on his security blanket. He called him the key to the offense, the one who makes everything go.
Ula Tolutau, from his perspective, repeats that he's just doing his job. That his offensive line opens the holes for him to run through. That his quarterback handles the ball deftly in the vaunted East High option offense, thus creating space and opportunity. And that the mere threat of John Fakahafua on the outside at wide receiver draws defensive attention, which helps him out.
"I just try to go hard on every play," Tolutau says. "It's just routine. I'm not trying to be special. I just want the team to win."
One look at the junior and anybody can see why he's considered special. Tolutau has the look of an offensive lineman. He's 6-foot-1, 230 pounds of solid muscle. He has the look of grown man. The only exception is his baby face, which belies his running style.
When he runs, anything can happen.
A shimmy to juke the linebacker. A speed burst to outrun the defensive back. A double move to create space and get through the hole.
Tolutau runs more explosively and faster than he should at his size. That's what made Matich put him in the backfield.
He may yet grow out of the position. But for comparison, think Harvey Langi, the former Bingham High star who was an All-American and is now at the University of Utah.
"He has a chance to be very good," Matich said. "He is still learning and still figuring things out. But when he does, he's just going to get better and better. He's very explosive. He makes catches out of the backfield, and he's a real important piece to what we are trying to do."
Tolutau, in a 48-9 win over West on Friday night, ran for 149 yards on just 16 carries and was named the game MVP. He has 298 yards on the ground, two touchdowns and an 8-yard-per-carry average through two games.
Indeed, if he keeps this pace up, Tolutau will be in line for a few trophies at the end of the season. He's made things easier on the entire game plan whenever he's been in Matich's backfield.
"The entire offense depends on him to produce," Valles said. "He's such a mismatch coming out of the backfield, and we're a much better team for it. We love what he brings. He sure makes my job easier."
Leopards put the load on junior back
East is 2-0 on the season.
Ula Tolutau is a 6-foot-1 junior and a starter at running back.
Tolutau is averaging over 7 yards per carry.