Vai Sikahema Athlete Profile

#23 Vai Sikahema

Vai Sikahema
Position: Running Back Height: 5-8 Weight: 191 Roster Years: 1980-1981 | 1983-1985 Hometown: Mesa, AZ Mission: SD Hall of Fame: 2002 Last School: Mesa High School

  • 2002 Football



  • 1984 All-WAC Honorable mention as a return specialist
  • 1985 All-WAC Second team (return specialist)
  • Holds BYU record with Don Bushore for most punt returns in a single game with eight (vs. New Mexico, 1985)
  • Holds BYU record for most punt returns in a season with 54 (1985)
  • Holds BYU record for most career punt returns with 153 (1980-85)
  • Holds BYU record for most career punt return yards with 1,312 (1980-85)

2002 Hall of Fame Inductee

BYU running back and return specialist Vai Sikahema first caught fans’ attention in the 1980 Holiday Bowl when he returned a punt for a touchdown in BYU’s 46-45 come-from-behind victory over Southern Methodist University. From that time, nearly 22 years prior to his last football game for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994, Sikahema's quickness, speed, and heart were assets for football teams all around the country.

A native of Tonga, Vai first came to BYU in 1980 after playing high school football in Mesa, Arizona. He began his career on the junior varsity but also played with the varsity special teams.

His sophomore season in 1981, Sikahema was one of three BYU rushers with positive yardage in the 1981 Holiday Bowl vs. Washington State. He also ended up finishing fourth in the WAC in punt returns, with an 8.6 yard average on 44 returns.

Sikahema interrupted his college football career to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to South Dakota between his sophomore and junior year. He came back to BYU in 1983 to redshirt.

During his 1984 season alone, Vai Sikahema was named Honorable Mention All-WAC, ranked seventh nationally in kick-off returns, named Special Teams Player-of-the-Game vs. both Tulsa and UTEP, and listed as BYU’s fourth leading rusher on the Cougar team that won the National Championship. Not a bad record after a three-season hiatus!

Sikahema kept turning heads his senior year. He was named the Hartford-ESPN MVP twice for his performances against UCLA and Hawaii and made Second Team All-WAC as a return specialist. By the end of his BYU career, he had made 153 punt returns, securing the BYU all-time record for career returns.

Vai then left BYU behind to play for the St. Louis Cardinals, during which time he made two Pro-Bowl appearances. In the 1987 game, he set the NFL Pro-Bowl Single-Game Punt Return record with seven returns in one game.

Vai moved to Arizona with the Cardinals, where he continued his education at ASU. He went on to play for the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles. As an Eagle he was named to the 1992 All-Madden Team.

Sikahema then retired from the NFL and transitioned from player to media specialist. Currently he is the sports director and anchor for NBC’s Channel 10 in Philadelphia. He graduated from BYU in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. Vai and his wife, Keala, are the parents of three sons and a daughter: Landon, L. J., Trey, and Lana.

Personal

  • Born in Nuku'Alofa, Tonga  
  • Served an LDS church mission to South Dakota
  • Married to Keala Heder and has four kids
  • Has a hobby of fire dancing
  • B.A. in broadcast journalism from BYU, 2002

Career Highlights

  • Drafted in the 10th round by the St. Louis Cardinals 1985
  • Second team All-Western Athletic Conference (return specialist) 1985
  • Honorable mention All-WAC as a return specialist 1984
  • Was seventh nationally in kickoff returns with a 25.1 yard average 1984
  • Averaged 9.5 yards per punt return 1984
  • Returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown vs. Tulsa 1984
  • Had a 65-yard kickoff return vs. Tulsa to start the second half 1984
  • Finished fourth in the WAC in punt returns with an 8l.6 average on 44 returns 1981
  • Had an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown vs. SMU in the Holiday Bowl 1980

Before BYU

  • Scored 112 points at Mesa High in 1978, including 29 points in one game
  • Rushed for 314 yards in one game
  • Was twice selected all-state
  • Team was 0-4, but won five straight games before losing the state championship game
  • Coached by Ben Arrendondo (Arizona State), the 1979 Arizona coach-of-the-year

After BYU

  • Drafted in the 10th round by the St. Louis Cardinals 1985
  • Moved to Arizona with the Cardinals, where he continued his education at ASU
  • Went on to play for the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles
  • After retiring from football, he became a media specialist
  • Is currently the sports director and anchor for NBC's Channel 10 in Philadelphia

Post BYU Honors and Societies

  • Made two Pro-Bowl appearances with the St. Louis Cardinals
  • Set the NFL Pro-Bowl Single-Game Punt Return record with seven returns in one game
  • Named to the 1992 All-Madden Team with the Philadelphia Eagles
  • Inducted into the BYU hall of fame in 2002


1980 | Freshman Year

  • Started the season with the junior varsity and scored TDs vs Ricks College and Air Force
  • Played a lot with the varsity special teams
  • Returned kickoffs 30 and 33 yards vs. North Texas State
  • Had an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown vs. SMU in the Holiday Bowl

1981 | Sophomore Year

  • Was one of three BYU rushers with plus yardage in the Holiday Bowl vs. Washington State
  • Rushed for 87 yards on eight carries vs. UTEP, coring a TD and returning five punts for 67 yards
  • Scored a 22-yard TD vs. Colorado State
  • Finished fourth in the WAC in punt returns with an 8l.6 average on 44 returns

1983 | Redshirt Year

Redshirted after serving an LDS church mission

1984 | Junior Year

  • Honorable mention All-WAC as a return specialist
  • Was seventh nationally in kickoff returns with a 25.1 yard average
  • Averaged 9.5 yards per punt return
  • Returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown vs. Tulsa
  • Had a 65-yard kickoff return vs. Tulsa to start the second half
  • Also had a 47-yard return for a touchdown vs. New Mexico
  • Was BYU's fourth-leading rusher with 76 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns
  • Had several touchdown runs called back because of penalties
  • Rushed for 59 yards on five carries and scored two touchdowns vs. Utah State
  • Special teams player-of-the-game vs. Tulsa and UTEP.

1985 | Senior Year

  • Drafted in the 10th round by the St. Louis Cardinals
  • Second team All-Western Athletic Conference (return specialist)
  • Hartford-ESPN MVP vs. UCLA and Hawai`i
  • Returned a punt for a 72-yard TD (vs. Air Force) on one of his 54 returns
  • Also had a 45-yard kickoff return vs. Air Force
  • Scored six TDS rushing and two via the pass