Kemoeatu tore his Achilles' tendon on the first day of training camp a year ago, and was on crutches for weeks, although he had some sort of gadget that was supposed to vacuum blood toward his ankle. As you can see above, he was just sort of running, without any contact, when the thing popped.
"I'm bummed out," he told reporters after getting hurt. "They're going to go in there and try and fix it up and see when I can come back. After surgery, they're telling me it will be four weeks at least. So maybe I'll be back for the last month of the season. Every little hope I have is that I'll be back out there with the boys."
Before the end of the week, though, the Panthers placed him on injured reserve, ending his season.
Kemoeatu is usually listed at 345 pounds, but he has often spoken of himself as "360-plus" in the past. That's evidently what he weighed last fall, when he told the Charlotte Observer he was working with a nutritionist to try to drop 30-40 pounds, largely by eating more fruits and vegetables.
"I'm trying not to eat as much, so I won't have to take off as much," he told the paper. "I've been staying away from the steakhouses. Ruth's Chris and Del Frisco's - I won't see them again until 2011!"
"It's tough," he added. "I come from a family where we get big. The older we get the bigger we get."
Even before his injury, in 2006, he told South Carolina's The Herald that he was over 360.
"I'll be honest with you," quarterback Jake Delhomme told the paper. "He's the biggest human being I've ever seen in my life."
The Herald reported that Kemoeatu wore a size 54 jersey and the largest helmet size available, and that the interior pads of his helmet still had to be shaved down to fit his noggin.
He was known for his silence during his college career at Utah, but by his senior year, Coach Ron McBride --who said the nose tackle didn't speak for about three years -- finally convinced Kemoeatu to liven up in the locker room. At that point, he became known for his pre-game ritual
"I'm just doing what the coaches tell me to do -- all the coaches. I'm going to start charging $5 apiece," Kemoeatu told the Deseret News. "I just get at [teammates], scream, hit people on the head. I don't really write out something to get ready for it. It seems to be good so far.
"I'm just trying to get all the guys fired up before the game, get the butterflies out of their stomachs. A lot of guys get nervous before the game, (so I try to) get it out of their system. Hey, it worked for me in high school, so I figured it would work again."
Speaking of rituals, this is from the Baltimore Sun in 2002, Kemoeatu's rookie year:
Edwin Mulitalo had company Tuesday for what has become a Rookie Night ritual, his rendition of the "haka," a war dance rooted in the South Pacific. Maake Kemoeatu, a rookie from Utah trying to make the team as a defensive tackle, was born in Tonga and played scholastically in Hawaii.Maybe he can teach it to Haynesworth.
"I heard that Mulitalo had always finished camp doing the New Zealand Maori war dance," Kemoeatu said. "I thought I would join him, finish off camp with a good note. I'd done it before back on the islands, and Ed said he liked having someone to do the haka with."
Kemo has three brothers who played Division I football, with Chris -- a guard for the Steelers -- the most accomplished on the field. Their father ran a construction business during their childhood, didn't want his kids playing football, kept them away from television, and stressed the value of hard work. Here, for example, is a tale from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
The proposed wall in question was four stories high. Too high and apparently too much for Chris Kemoeatu and older brother Ma'ake to help build.Not sure if this is a parable or if it actually happened.
Manako Kemoeatu gave his two oldest sons only two days to carry various supplies -- rocks, cement, water -- to the top of a steep hill so he could build the wall. On the second day, however, Chris and Ma'ake were both so exhausted they became convinced they couldn't finish their portion of a job that didn't pay very well in the first place.
That isn't the point, Manako told his sons. If you don't finish, how will we feed our family with the money I'm supposed to earn for building the wall? He made them a promise: If they somehow completed the Herculean task, any other challenges they faced in life would seem small by comparison. Somehow, Chris and his brother finished the job, lugging the remaining supplies to the top of the hill. The wall was built."
The Tribune-Review also reported that Maake and Chris head back to Hawaii in the offseason, where the custom is for the men to do all the cooking.
"In keeping with that tradition, Chris prepares huge feasts with Ma'ake consisting of wild pigs, cows and chickens that they personally hunt and cook outside on wooden poles," the paper reported.
The brothers also still speak Tongan in their parents' home. Not sure yet how to say "wild pig on a wooden pole" in Tongan, but I'll try to find out.