Why Does Puka Nacua Cry Every Game? Inside the NFL Player's Tragic Childhood

Puka Nacua is now a strong force in the NFL for the Los Angeles Rams as a wide receiver, but his success leads him to cry before games. Here's why.

Emma Saletta - Author

Oct. 21 2023, Published 3:00 p.m. ET

The Gist:

  • Puka Nacua is a wide receiver drafted by the L.A. Rams in 2023.
  • He was inspired by his father to play football in the NFL. He died back in 2012.
  • His emotions have not gone unnoticed by the NFL and social media.
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Debuting for the L.A. Rams in 2023, Puka Nacua has been showing the NFL why he's more than just a round 5 draft pick. He's made play after and play, and in a Rams YouTube video from Oct. 13, 2023, NFL analyst Brian Baldinger calls him "the number one rookie" for the first five games of the season.

Puka attended the University of Washington, and later played for Brigham Young University from 2021-2022. He opted to join the 2023 draft rather than attend BYU for his senior year, and this decision ultimately worked in his favor. However, if it wasn't for his father, he may not be in the position where he is today — and it's this thought that serves up strong emotions before or after every game.

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Puka cries every game because of his dad.

Born Makea Nacua, Puka was raised in Provo, Utah by Penina and the late Lionel Nacua. He is the younger brother of USFL player Kai Nacua and former NFL player Samson Nacua. Family is seemingly a huge part of his life, and even majored in family life while still attending BYU.

Puka's dad Lionel had a heavy impact on all of the Nacua men — and a passion for football was part of that.

The brothers honored their dad by playing football at BYU after being pushed by him to watch game tapes rather than cartoons. Their dad also hinted that the NFL was in Puka's future.

His dad unfortunately was not here to watch that become a reality. Lionel passed away at age 45 after suffering from complications related to diabetes when the NFL player was only 10 years old.

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Puka's emotions have won over the hearts of social media.

People on TikTok have posted videos of Puka getting emotional during his NFL games, and are clearly touched. Remarking on one TikTok video, commenters asked what the reason behind his tears are — and they've gotten answers from fans.

"He cries before every game because he's living out his dream and his dad isn't there to see it," said one TikToker.

Other comments have also featured his grandmother, with one user even saying that he allegedly transferred to BYU from Washington because his grandmother "got diagnosed with cancer." Since that comment was made, several people have replied to it, saying things like, "bro shut up that is not right," and, "Not even why it's his dad."

His mother Penina spoke with the New York Post on Oct. 7, 2023 about how close Puka and her late husband were, and that she's done everything she can to keep Lionel's spirit alive in their hearts.

“I always remind my kids to not let their dad’s death go in vain because he worked so hard for you guys,” Penina said, adding they should “remember that in all that they are doing and pursuing.”

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