Gouveia shines on the field for his family, teammates despite the absence of his father

The mention of his incarcerated father immediately brings an emotional sting and a surge of motivation for Jeff Gouveia.

The mention of his incarcerated father immediately brings an emotional sting and a surge of motivation for Jeff Gouveia.

No matter how distant he is from his troubled dad, Auburn High School’s fearless two-sport star athlete keeps him near his thoughts, even closer to his heart.

That connection is very much part of his pre-game ritual, stirred emotionally at the first familiar sounds of the National Anthem.

As he looks up into the sky, the young player thinks about his father, all the good and bad. Yet Gouveia straps it on and excels as a punishing senior running back and destructive linebacker for the Trojans, who kick off the new football season Sept. 4 at Federal Way.

“It touches a spot,” said Gouveia, who carefully addresses the subject. “I pray for him, think of him. It pumps me up. It makes me do better, pushes me to do better.

“I play for him and I play for my family.”

Gouveia has endured a different life than most boys his age. Jeff Gouveia Sr. has been in and out of jails for some time – as long as his son can remember – for crimes the family would just as soon keep private.

But Gouveia, a growing and affable 17-year-old with a bright future, is a forgiving soul, and stays connected to his father with occasional visits and calls.

“He hasn’t been around much, but the surprising thing is every time I play, I think about him,” Gouveia said.

“It’s been pretty tough. I just try to look past it,” he said. “It just inspires me to do better.”

In fact, his father repeatedly urges his talented son to reach higher and go farther – obtain certain things, like a college education, perhaps an athletic scholarship and ultimately, a shot at the NFL.

“He wants me just to do the right thing … and he did some bad things,” Gouveia said. “But my friends, coaches and family have helped me through it.”

The family includes a single mother, Ana Manumaleuna, who has raised four children, including a recently adopted son, 17-year-old Jay, who shares the basketball court with Gouveia and the Trojans.

Manumaleuna, who is Samoan and part German, has been a steady rock behind a large family ever since she divorced Gouveia’s father, who is part Portuguese and Puerto Rican.

“She’s the world (to me). She’s been there through the ups and downs,” Gouveia said. “She is a strong lady and does everything for the family. She never quits, never gives up.

“Through rough times, you keep going. You do what you can to survive.”

Such is the way Gouveia competes. In many ways, he takes after his mother.

“I had to be mom and dad,” Manumaleuna said. “Life is not easy. We can’t take a lot for granted. We have to work hard for what we want, and that hard work pays off.”

Manumaleuna knew her son had a special gift to play.

“When he was young, he was such a daredevil and full of energy,” Manumaleuna said.

With the absence of the father, Manumaleuna showed the way. She was firm but fair.

“I tried my best to provide parental guidance,” she said. “I was strict, but I also communicated.

“I’m sure it’s hard on him, but (he) got used to not having him (his father) around,” she added. “But we met a lot of good people and good role models as well.”

Many coaches came along and helped guide and shape a sound athlete. Those included Eric Harlington and James Sampson, among others.

Gouveia started on the line but soon got a chance to touch the ball. He hasn’t given it back since.

And now, a solid and prepared Gouveia intends to deliver his best shots this season as a 48-minute man, playing both sides of the ball, even coming in to kick extra points and field goals. He returns stronger and more durable at 6 feet and a solid 220 pounds.

In the summer weight room, Gouveia boosted his bench to 295 pounds, his squat to 435 pounds. He covers 40 yards in 4.6 seconds.

And that spells trouble for opponents who will try to slow the Trojans’ motion-clad “jet” offense.

As a junior, Gouveia rushed for 1,033 yards and 19 touchdowns, tops in South Puget Sound League 3A. He tore up Sumner for 205 yards and three touchdowns.

He also was caught eight passes for 71 yards, giving him 1,104 all-purpose yards.

As the eye of the storm, he was named the league’s Linebacker of the Year, a consistent devourer of ball carries. He finished with a season-high 14 1/2 tackles against O’Dea in the Trojans’ state playoff-opening loss.

“He’s a pretty accomplished football player,” coach Gordon Elliott said. “He’s got good instincts, he’s aggressive and has a real good feel of the game.

“He just goes out and plays the game,” Elliott said. “He gets excited from time to time, but he’s not a rah-rah type of kid. He just goes out and plays hard … he’s a real good football player.”

Gouveia likes to run over people but also likes to dish out the hits.

“Who doesn’t like to score touchdowns?” he said with a smile. “And you also want to go out and make the stops and deliver the hits.

“When the game begins, the switch goes on,” he added. “I’m a mean, mad guy on the field, but I’m a nice guy off it.”

In basketball, Gouveia plans to make an impact in the winter as one of the key returners for a team that went 20-0 in the regular season and advanced to state last year.

But football comes first, his sport of choice, a game he has grown to love ever since he first put on the pads at 7.

“It’s so much fun,” said Gouveia, who has received some interest from Pac-10 schools, including Washington, Washington State, UCLA and Arizona. “I like the contact and seeing the fans go crazy. I like the excitement of it all.

“It’s the best game.”

A game that he hopes to one day share with his distant father, who has yet to see his son play in high school.

Gouveia hopes that will change soon.

“I want him in my life,” said Gouveia, who sends his father newspaper clippings and photos of his games.

“But we’ll see what happens. He might be in the stands some night.”


• Coach: Gordon Elliott, 7th season.

• Last season: The Trojans finished 6-1 in the South Puget Sound League 3A, good for second, and 8-3 overall. Auburn was eliminated by O’Dea in a state opener, 35-3.

• Offense: Spread T.

• Defense: 3-3 stack.

• Returning starters (Name, year, position, height/weight): Jeff Gouveia, sr., FB, 6-0/205; Carlo Lavoie, sr., QB (started at HB last year), 6-1/175; Bryan Kasa, sr., TE, 6-0/225; Zack Tate, sr., OT, 6-2/220.

• Key newcomers (Name, year, position, height/weight): Nick Conlan, so., C/NG, 6-0/275; Danny Shelton, so., OT, 6-0/305; Alphonse Wade, so., HB, 6-0/165; E.J. Strickland, so., LB, 5-11/185

• Outlook: The Trojans return to the SPSL 4A ranks with a young but talented team. As many as six sophomores could start this season. As many as 10 sophomores could see significant playing time, according to Elliott, whose program has attracted nearly 100 players (top three grades) for fall drills. “It’s a pretty talented class (of sophomores) … and they are going to be some guys who will have to step up,” Elliott said. “They are some pretty good sophomores, but it’s hard to say how they will do because I have nothing to gauge it on. It’s a big jump to varsity.” … Lavoie, a good ball-handler who can run and pass, goes into camp as the leading QB candidate, but Elliott also will look at junior Marshall Klontz, who started two games last year. … Elliott is looking forward to resuming traditional rivalries with Kent-area programs this season. “It will be fun. It’s a tough, competitive league. If you get out of our league, it prepares you well for the playoffs,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to be young but at the end of the year we should be good.” … To stay in the race, Elliott hopes his young team can weather a tough stretch of early games, beginning with Federal Way and Kentwood. The idea is to be there at the end to secure one of four SPSL North playoff spots.

• Can’t-miss game: The schedule makers wasted little time in pitting Auburn against the big boys in the revamped South Puget Sound League North Division. Week 1, slated for Thursday, Sept. 4, has the Trojans traveling to Federal Way for a showdown against the SPSL North defending champion Eagles. It doesn’t get any easier the following week as the boys of Troy host perennial power Kentwood, which finished last season tied for second in the North. Both should be barnburners. A pair of wins would quickly solidify Auburn as one of the team’s to beat.



2007 8-3

2006 12-1

2005 9-2

2004 7-3

2003 5-5



9-4 at Federal Way 7 p.m.**

9-12 vs. Kentwood 7 p.m.*

9-19 at K-Meridian 7 p.m.*

9-26 vs. Jefferson 7 p.m.****

10-2 vs. Kentridge 7 p.m.****

10-10 at Kentlake 7 p.m.*

10-17 at Decatur 7 p.m.**

10-24 vs. Tahoma 7 p.m.****

10-31 at A. Riverside 7 p.m.****

* Game at French Field

** Game at Federal Way Stadium

*** Game at Maxwell Field

*** At Auburn Memorial Stadium