Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua has enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom during a breakout first season in the NFL. The fifth-round rookie out of BYU came out of the gates hot, registering 39 catches for 501 yards in the first four games of his pro career. His production has slowed some with the return of Cooper Kupp, but Nacua remains an integral part of what’s been a surprising Los Angeles offense.

On the year, Nacua has registered 87 receptions, 1,163 yards, and four touchdowns. That yardage total is good for sixth-most in the league. Were it not for the emergence of Houston Texans QB C.J. Stroud, Nacua would likely be a shoo-in for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Nevertheless, the 22-year-old looks poised to enjoy a career replete with accolades. He’s already amassed considerable popularity for his stellar play and the childlike enthusiasm with which he approaches the game. There’s no doubt Nacua’s family is endlessly proud of the way he’s burst onto the scene this year.

Who Are Puka Nacua’s Parents?

Nacua was born to Penina and Lionel Nacua in Provo, Utah in May 2001. Nacua lost his father, Lionel, to diabetes when he was just 10 years old. But Lionel’s love of football, and his son, was hugely impactful during Nacua’s formative years.

Nacua’s mother, Penina, recalled the bond her late husband shared with her son, and just how football-centric it often was, during an interview with the New York Post this past October.

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“There were times when I’d come to the truck, and I remember Puka sitting in the passenger seat and he’s got his iPad, and his dad would make him watch film. And he’s watching old players from way back during our time in the ’80s and ’90s. Puka would have to sit there, and he’d be watching film as my husband was taking him to a game. And they were my husband’s favorite players.”

Some of the names noted among Nacua’s frequently viewed highlight reels include Lawrence Taylor and Troy Polamalu, two of their respective generation’s most imposing defenders. That helps to explain why, despite playing a glamourous position like wide receiver, Nacua has thrived on a physical, hard-nosed playing style.

It didn’t hurt any that Nacua was the second-youngest of five brothers. Well, it likely hurt plenty. But it definitely helped to hone Nacua’s toughness all the same.

“My husband loved defense; he loved having his boys hitting each other,” Penina said. “He would have everybody suiting up and putting on the shoulder pads, and he’d make them go head-on, one-on-one. Whoever was the youngest was getting mauled, and that was Puka.”

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Penina was tasked with raising half a dozen children, five boys and one girl, as a single mother after her husband’s untimely death. But she made it a point of emphasis to impart important life lessons to her children as they grew older.

“I never let my kids ever think that they were bigger and better than everyone else,” Penina said. “I always remind my kids to not let their dad’s death go in vain because he worked so hard for you guys, to remember that in all that they are doing and pursuing.”

There’s no doubt that Penina and all Nacua’s siblings are endlessly proud of the success the rookie star has enjoyed in his still-burgeoning pro career. Just as there’s no doubt his father would be similarly thrilled to see his son thriving on the gridiron today.

“We literally jumped off the couch, we were screaming, and we were just crying because watching Puka on TV and seeing him in his element and scoring that last touchdown to win the game,” Penina said.

“That was just the sweetest moment to see. And we all felt like it was coming. Like we were all calling it already. I swear, the angels were there helping making sure he got in that end zone, and he got it done.”

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Kay Adams