“There may be better players, but there will never be a better teammate, a better brother or a better man than Fatu.”
Nicholas Fatu Sevelo, whose friends called him a beam of happiness, passed away Wednesday, Nov. 9 at the age of 18.
The freshman fire, arson and explosion investigation major and Berea native was a vital part of the EKU Men’s Rugby Club and a friend to many throughout the community.
Sevelo, strictly known as Fatu, played football and wrestled at Madison Southern, and immediately clung to a family-favorite sport once he stepped foot onto Eastern’s campus.
“I met Fatu during the first week of school at Big E Bash,” said Jeremy Carter, EKU Men’s Rugby Club President. “I talked to him at the [rugby] table, and as soon as I did, I knew he was going to be a good friend from then on.”
Despite never playing organized rugby, Sevelo knew the game well. The national sport of Tonga, rugby was an important aspect of Sevelo’s father and relatives’ lives, and teammates said his passion and will to succeed at the game was in honor of them.
“He never did it for himself—he wanted to be good for his father,” said Wayne Pitts, a fellow rugby player and one of Sevelo’s closest friends.
During the candlelight vigil held for Sevelo Nov. 11, Pitts said Sevelo’s father spoke about how proud he was of his son.
“His father came to three games…and he was so proud of him for everything,” Pitts said.
In his first semester of play, Sevelo suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for multiple games. Club sports such as rugby often see players with injuries disappear from the roster, not caring whether or not they continue with the sport.
Sevelo never disappeared. Instead, Hamilton said Sevelo was persistent. He ever gave up until his ankle was fully healed and he was able to run across the field and join his teammates.
“His first game, he was so happy to be with us,” Hamilton said. “At the vigil, his dad told us he was so happy around all of us…he was part of the family.”
On the field, Pitts said Sevelo never backed out on his teammates.
“When you carry the ball, Fatu would always say ‘I got you,’” Pitts said. “I remember running down the field and seeing one of the other team’s big men behind me. I turned around and saw Fatu coming at him full steam ahead. When he said ‘I got you,’ he meant it.”
Hamilton said Sevelo’s compassion for his teammates on the field carried over off the field.
“I love America, but his Tongan pride is greater than my patriotism,” Hamilton said. “Fatu was really family-oriented—and team-oriented.”
Teammates said Sevelo was friends with every member of the rugby club, and made sure to reach out to any stranger.
“At one of our parties there was a girl who was really intoxicated,” Pitts said. “Fatu stayed with her to make sure she had friends who could take her home and that she wouldn’t be harmed in any way.”
A self-proclaimed “shy guy,” Sevelo went by the nickname Chief as a way to have conversations with any girls.
Jamie Schneider, a sophomore women’s rugby player, met Sevelo at the rugby house and said he made sure to include anyone who looked lonely or sat by themselves.
Pitts said Sevelo cared more about the lives of his friends than he ever did for himself.
“My dad and I were fighting, and I called Fatu at 11 p.m,” Pitts said. “He immediately answered the phone and said ‘I’ll be there.’ He drove to my house from Berea just to listen to me talk.”
Friends said Sevelo put others before himself, ignoring his own problems and trying to make everyone else’s day better.
“From my first to last conversation, I was blessed to meet him,” Pitts said.