It's safe to say the football is secure with Talalelei Teaupa.
The day after he plays tailback for Newport Harbor High on Friday nights, the 17-year-old plays with a knife on fire. Holding onto the ball is easy when compared to how Teaupa handles a machete engulfed in flames at each end.
Teaupa is a Samoan fire knife dancer on the weekends.
You've probably seen one before if you've been to a luau in Hawaii. Picture a bare-chested dancer twirling, throwing and catching a flaming knife and that's Teaupa.
The job is dangerous. Nothing protects Teaupa, no pads, no helmet, no blockers. All he has on is a colorful skirt, a lava-lava.
You might be surprised at what worries him the most during the act. It's his hair catching on fire.
The hair used to be longer than it is now. Don't worry, he didn't lose much of his hair because it ignited while performing.
Teaupa got a haircut this summer. The hair that he said he had grown since sixth grade because of his culture, he's Samoan and Tongan, was no longer long enough to wear in a bun.
The hair used to go all the way down near his butt. He said he was hesitant to lop it off because it was part of his identity.
"But then I knew it was for a good cause," Teaupa said. "It didn't matter after that."
What matters to Teaupa is family.
He said he honored two family members, his aunt Carmen Picon and grandma Gloria Weygand, both passed away from cancer. He donated his hair to the Locks of Love nonprofit organization, which provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under 21 with medical hair loss.
Teaupa still has more hair than the rest of his teammates. The new look hasn't changed him, whether he's performing at a luau or football game.
He just makes sure not to cut himself with the knife. On the field, he knives through defenses.
Teaupa turned in his second straight impressive effort last week. They have come at home against CIF Southern Section finalists from a year ago.
The latest game saw Teaupa rush 24 times for 143 yards and score on a 48-yard touchdown run and 63-yard touchdown reception. The Sailors went on to pull off a 28-7 upset win against San Clemente, ranked No. 8 in the Pac-5 Division at the time.
Two weeks ago, Teaupa had 29 carries for 237 yards and two touchdowns, a career night. To top it off, Newport Harbor came back to beat Corona del Mar, 27-26, in the Battle of the Bay.
In the past two outings, the senior has shown the kind of speed Coach Jeff Brinkley didn't anticipate.
"He's been able to crack the line of scrimmage … and go the distance," said Brinkley of Teaupa, whose longest touchdown of his five this season has been a 74-yard run against CdM. "We've been pleased with the progress he's made."
Teaupa has come back strong after breaking his collarbone before the start of last season.