Listed at 5’10 and 170 pounds, Tate Shimao ’22 is not your average 14-year-old quarterback. A gifted athlete, Shimao is the only freshman to make the Varsity Football team this year. Beyond his unique physical measurables for a person his age, this freshman phenom possesses the high-caliber arm strength, football mentality, and dual-threat ability which appeals to Coach Look and his coaching staff. Currently a back-up to starting quarterback Jonah Chong ’20, Shimao is undeniably a future leader for the team, and his play can prove it. So how does such a player like this end up being the youngest player on the ‘Iolani Varsity Football roster?
Outside of football, the Shimao family is famously known for their athleticism, with Tate’s sister Nikki Shimao ’20 holding multiple school records for track and field, including the 100-meter hurdles. For Tate, his sister’s success motivated him throughout his athletic career to improve.
“We train together, but of course I always win,” Shimao said with a smile. When he’s not competing against his family, Shimao’s parents support him on and off the field. “My dad always pushes me and tells me to win every day… [and] my mom supports me through everything, even when I’m doing bad.”
Excelling at sports from a young age, Shimao found success with football and started his Intermediate Football career as a quarterback in seventh grade. Even then, Shimao seemed unstoppable as both a passer and a rusher. So the coaches put him in games from an early age. By eighth grade, Shimao lit up the league, going 5-1-1 on the season and nearly winning the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Intermediate Football Championship. His early success led to future opportunity this past summer when Coach Look and company offered Shimao to join the Varsity Football team as the youngest player on the roster. However, Varsity Football seems to be a completely different beast for the freshman. His coaches and teammates treat him no differently, but there is definitely a learning curve to overcome.
“Getting used to the speed is the main part… I’m not playing with little kids anymore,” said Shimao. "They’re bigger now, and I have to do the same thing as [my teammates].” Shimao admits that he makes mental errors in practice and takes these mistakes seriously in order to prepare himself for a higher spot on the roster in the future.
Shimao is currently grouped with Samuel Faumuina ’21 and Jonah Chong ’20 as the three quarterbacks of the Varsity Football team. Currently, the junior Chong holds the starting position with 1464 yards and 16 touchdowns to his name, but Shimao knows that, in football, no position is safe. Whether it be due to injury or poor performance, people are always being pulled out, and this offers opportunities for players like Shimao to step up when their team needs them.
“By the final game, I would want to be the starter, but if not, that’s fine,” said Shimao. “As long as we’re winning and I’m getting better and stronger then I’m fine with that.”
This team mindset should not be mistaken for complacency, as Shimao believes that the starting quarterback job is a constant competition.
“I’m just trying to be prepared,” he said. “The practice is my game, so I gotta try to be perfect and make the best decisions in practice… so that I at least know that I can be starting.”
Being in this unique position, Shimao admittedly catches himself looking to the future of his football career, but there are times when he reminisces about the past. Having gone immediately from eighth grade to varsity football, Shimao left his friends, coaches, and the opportunity to be a freshman leader of the intermediate Football team.
“I guess [leaving Intermediate Football] was the hardest thing for me… because I’m missing out on all the fun things of being [a freshman player],” Shimao said. He has a long journey ahead of him to becoming the starting quarterback for the Raiders, but luckily time is on his side for a lengthy varsity career to come for the hopeful freshman.