DOWNEY, Calif. — Walk across the football field at Warren High School in Downey, and you'll spot quarterback Nico Iamaleava.
Standing at 6 feet, 6 inches, and weighing almost 200 pounds, the 16-year-old was made to be an athlete. Learn a little more about him, and you'll realize he also was destined to be a quarterback.
"Just the leadership, the responsibility you have and control of the team," Iamaleava said. "I just love it all."
Growing up in Southern California, sports were in his DNA. But it wasn't football he played first; instead, it was rugby since it's a big part of his family's Samoan culture.
"My grandpa was big on rugby," Iamaleava said. "And they don't have too much out there, so all it takes is just a ball and tackling — no pads, no nothing."
From rugby, he moved on to flag and then tackle football. Although he played a variety of positions from safety to receiver, Iamaleava landed on being a quarterback.
And while there are plenty of other Polynesian football legends that have come before, the high school junior is the latest in a string of elite Polynesian quarterbacks.
"People know us to be the big lineman and stuff like that, but Tua Tagovailoa and Marcus Mariota have changed that culture. Now, I'm right along with them," he said.
From the moment he suited up and took up the position, he was a natural, with a natural skill set that caught the eye of Warren head coach Kevin Pearson.
At the time, Iamaleava was not with the Bears. He was lining up against them at Long Beach Poly.
"His arm talent jumped off the charts, then his size is something else, then his mobility, physical toughness and intelligence," Pearson said. "He's the full package."
When he later transferred to Warren to join Pearson's program, the longtime head coach said Iamaleava's demeanor struck him as unique.
"After that game I said, 'My gosh, that kid is gonna be something special,' not even knowing we'd have him," Pearson said. "He just understands what it means to be a leader."
It's an especially important skill at Warren, where Pearson has built a culture that prioritizes success on the football field — where the Bears have a perfect season so far — and a culture of giving one's best off the field.
"Football is the ultimate team sport," he said. "It's the one sport you need all 11 guys being selfless in each play. We just wanted to get a culture where the kids give great effort on the field and in the classroom and produce great young men."
And that's one thing Iamaleava exemplifies, what it means to be part of a team. As one of eight siblings, some might say he's an expert.
His younger brother Madden is a freshman quarterback at Warren. His father, Nick, is an assistant coach on the staff.
That special blend of football and family has made Nico one of the top quarterbacks in his class and a strong leader of this pack, but by his own accord, it hasn't made him any less of a sore loser.
"I'm probably the worst sore loser ever because I don't lose regularly at the house," he said with a laugh. "I'm probably the most athletic and the best at video games in the whole family, so I don't know how to deal with it at times."
Fortunately, he hasn't had to deal with it this season, and he's hungry for more.
Because while talent in this landscape is everywhere, Nico's winning attitude and drive are uniquely his own.