Who Is the Father of Puka Nacua? A Look at Rams Rookie Wide Receiver’s Inspiration

Puka Nacua hails from a football-oriented family. Did the Rams receiver's love of the game start with his late father?

Puka Nacua is in a locker room full of inspirations for younger football talents. After all, the Los Angeles Rams have prized veterans Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, and Matthew Stafford walking around the facility.

Who Is Puka Nacua’s Father? Did He Play Football?

But his first inspiration?

The one who believed he would be the best among six kids: His father.

Nacua is the son of Lionel Nacua, plus was the fifth of six children from Lionel and Nacua’s mother Penina.

He was also one of Nacua’s first football coaches as a youth.

“Puka did have that,” Penina Nacua said of Lionel’s influence on their fifth child. “As Puka was getting older, playing football, my husband would always say, ‘I’ll take him to football.’ Even though he was working more and more, he’d make time to do pick up or drop off, and sometimes both.”

Per the Deseret News, Lionel Nacua got a young Puka to break down film and choose that over watching SpongeBob SquarePants. He would even watch college football games on television with his father and older brothers.

“I think that my husband planted the seeds in Puka at 9, 10, 11 years old,” Penina said. “Because while most kids are eating Fruity Pebbles and watching Sponge Bob cartoons or the Disney Channel, Puka never did any of that. He would watch ESPN, he’d watch all the football and basketball highlights because my husband planted the seeds already with Puka.”

Lionel Nacua bounced between father figure and coach for the future Rams receiver and his brothers. The family also had a fandom for Brigham Young football, as the father hoped his boys would become a Cougar one day.

Lionel, unexpectedly, died in May 2012 at the age of 45 due to complications of diabetes. But sure enough, Kai and Isaiah went on to verbally commit to BYU after his death.

Puka’s mother shared that even as he was nearing the end of his life, Nacu’a father took the time to

“Puka is going to be the best one,” she recalled him saying. “Out of all my boys, he’ll be the best football player.”

Did Nacua Also Follow His Brothers to BYU?

Ultimately, Nacua became a revered BYU Cougar. But it didn’t start out that way.

MORE: NFL Standings

Nacua first went on his college football journey to the Seattle area, as he had originally planned to attend USC.

However, he signed his national letter of intent to play for the University of Washington.

He ended up starting in three games in 2019 while seeing action in eight games.

Nacua then played in three more games during the truncated 2020 season due to COVID-19.

Nonetheless, he ended up heading back to his dad’s favorite university in 2021 where he went on to establish himself as a future NFL wide receiver. He ended up leading BYU in receiving yards in both seasons.

And at BYU, Nacua had a touchdown celebration that began with his brothers — he would always point to the sky to honor their deceased father.

“I know he can see,” Nacua’s mother said, her voice choking with emotion. “If he could be here, be present, to really witness what he predicted back then has come to fruition, it makes me laugh and smile and just tickles my heart.”

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