Brandon Wellington, the prized UW recruit, has the wow factor and easily stands out on a talent-laden Crusader team favored to win a second straight championship. But the person he idolizes stands barely 5-foot-6. Mom Siniva Wellington is the real hero in his life.
KENT – Brandon Wellington plays superhero for the top-ranked Eastside Catholic football team.
The 6-foot, 220-pound Wellington was almost a blur in returning two kickoffs for touchdowns against Lakes last Friday in the Class 3A state semifinals, giving him a state-record seven for the season.
“He’s a freak athlete,” Bellevue standout Isaac Garcia said with respect and reverence.
Wellington has the wow factor and easily stands out on a talent-laden Crusader team favored to win a second straight championship over Bellevue on Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
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But the person he idolizes stands barely 5 feet 6. Mom Siniva Wellington is the real hero in his life.
“I definitely look up to her,” the prized University of Washington recruit said. “When I’m going through tough times and I’m stressed out about school or other things, I know it’s not going to be the end of the world, no matter what…
“To see that she fought and she is still fighting through her sickness, that motivates me to stay in school and finish out strong and go on to college and hopefully to the NFL so that she and my dad (Rich) can witness that. It would be a dream come true.”
Siniva has battled Lupus disease since 1997, the year before Brandon was born, and it ultimately caused both kidneys to fail. She began dialysis in 2005 and nearly died from an infection in 2011, when she lapsed into a coma for two weeks and doctors told the family scans showed no brain activity.
Brandon, an eighth grader at Meeker Middle School in Kent at the time and the only child of the Samoan couple, didn’t know what to expect. He tried to concentrate on school and basketball between trips to visit his mom.
Suddenly one day, with Rich sitting by her side holding her hand, Siniva began humming, then woke up and said she was hungry.
“When I got to the hospital and saw her moving around and responding, it was pure joy,” Brandon said.
But that joy has been tempered over the years by the three-times-a-week dialysis, which leaves the normally energetic Siniva exhausted and drained. Brandon is bothered that he isn’t old enough to be her kidney donor.
“If I could give it to her, I would,” he said.
But the good news is that Siniva is now at the top of the transplant list, awaiting a match. That has been a relief, Brandon said.
In the meantime, Siniva remains ever-present at his games – even on days when dialysis leaves her barely able to walk. Those nights, she sits on the sideline in a wheelchair, ignoring pleas from her son and husband to just stay home to rest.
“I’m going!” she insists, and while there wearing his jersey or lettermen’s jacket, Brandon can hear her loud and clear.
“Go Brandon! Go Baby! That’s my son!”
“I’m his No. 1 fan,” she declares, which leaves the affable Rich saying, “I guess I’m No. 2?”
They decide 1-A and 1-B works. Brandon, a running back/defensive back who likely will play linebacker for the Huskies, appreciates the support.
“Just knowing my mom’s there every game, even when she’s not feeling her best, and my dad’s there, it’s special,” he said.
The Wellingtons knew at an early age that Brandon might be special
“He came out running,” Siniva said. “This boy could run before he could walk.”
He naturally took to whatever sport he tried, from baseball (“I thought I was going to be the next Derek Jeter”) to basketball to volleyball to golf – and of course football, which he fell in love with playing for the Burien Bearcats around age 7.
Wellington joined the Eastside Catholic Junior Football program in eighth grade and decided he wanted to make the sacrifices it took – like getting up at 5 a.m. and taking a bus from a nearby community center – to attend the high school the following year.
Coach Jeremy Thielbahr said Wellington is a tireless worker who leads by example.
“He’s a student of the game and a great person,” he said. “He’s going to have a wonderful career ahead of him, whether that’s in football or in anything else.”
Thielbahr has seen the special bond between Brandon and his parents, especially Siniva.
“Brandon plays deeply for the love of his family and the love of his community,” he said. “He’s been able to overcome a lot in his life. He’s just a wonderful example of what young kids can do when they put their mind to something. He’s a kid who bettered himself.”
A kid who inspires greatness on the football field, and one who knows who the real hero in life is.