Sam Liu and his Parish teammates are aiming for a fifth straight TAPPS football title
Before every snap, Sam Liu plants his left arm into the ground. It exposes an entire sleeve of tattoos — highlighted by a rope of shark teeth, a spiral of fish scales, and a shark at the elbow.
The ornate body art is a source of inspiration and pride for the Parish Episcopal offensive guard, who moved to Texas six years ago from his native New Zealand.
Liu’s family heritage links back to the island nation of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean, specifically to a village of traditional shark hunters. And his arm decorations provide a constant reminder of that lineage, bringing a sense of calm and determination on every play.
“Every time I put my left hand down, it keeps me rooted and strong in my stance,” Liu said. “It reminds me of who I’m really playing for.”
Liu, who is in his third season as a starting offensive lineman for the Panthers, got the tattoo during the summer before his junior year.
“It’s part of the heritage that my family has, and I’m proud to carry it around with me for the rest of my life,” Liu said. “We try to keep that tie to the motherland really close.”
After an unbeaten run through district play, Parish hopes its playoff run will culminate in a fifth consecutive TAPPS Division I state championship in early December.
Liu has been a critical part of the last two title teams, which might seem remarkable since he grew up playing rugby in New Zealand and didn’t have his first exposure to football until middle school.
“Coming from rugby, I was a little more lean. They saw some potential in my aggressiveness,” said Liu, who was still learning some of the rules during his seventh-grade season at Harwood Junior High School in Bedford. “I had to get used to the little details.”
Liu has obviously been a quick study. Experience and chemistry along the offensive line has helped the Panthers flourish on offense again this season, paving the way for big seasons from quarterback Sawyer Anderson and running back Maddux Reid, among others.
“He went from a rookie to a veteran with very little coaching,” said Parish head coach Daniel Novakov. “He’s seen everything and knows everything. When you’ve played that many games, you know what to do and how to do it.”
Liu, who has slimmed down from 330 pounds to about 310 for his senior season, is verbally committed to play college football next season at the Division I level for Louisiana-Monroe, alongside former Parish defensive lineman Keegon Addison. After all, family comes in many forms.
“Being away from some of my family, I searched for a brotherhood,” Liu said. “Here at Parish, we try to keep it tight-knit.”