The seven newly-elected team captains. Courtesy of PSU Athletics

 Leading from the front

Portland State’s football team captains embrace leadership

A week before their 2023 campaign kicks off, Portland State’s football team finds itself in the hands of their seven newly-elected team captains. Between them, they bring 20 seasons of knowledge and communication of the game of football to help the team towards its goals.


Seven athletes were chosen by their teammates and given the honor to represent them—senior linebacker Isaiah Henry, senior offensive lineman Shiloh Ta’ase, senior defensive tackle Dino Kahaulelio, senior running back Andrew Van Buren, senior wide receiver Maclaine Griffin, junior quarterback Dante Chachere and junior safety Tyreese Shakir.


In the collegiate setting, team captains take on an even greater significance. They lead their peers in athletic endeavors and foster personal growth, teamwork and discipline among student-athletes. They serve as role models for their fellow students and athletes, exemplifying the institution’s values and principles. Henry, Kahaulelio and Ta’ase took the time post-practice to talk with Portland State Vanguard about what they bring to their shared leadership roles.


Ta’ase—the offensive lineman who’s brought a wealth of experience since his arrival in 2018—recognized the evolving nature of the team over the years. “I’ve seen how the team has shaped and formed itself in different ways year-to-year,” Ta’ase said.


His role as captain allows him to analyze the team’s dynamics and his position within it, driving him to lead by example and show his teammates how to execute tasks with unwavering determination.

Senior linebacker, Isaiah Henry. Courtesy of PSU Athletics


Henry shared his fellow captain’s sentiments on the significance of unity and communication. He believes effective teamwork is essential for a successful defense and that good communication between players is crucial.


“It all starts with communication,” Henry said. “I think that we can’t do anything if we’re not on the same page and [putting in] excellent effort every single time.” His emphasis on the importance of exceptional effort highlights his belief that it can help compensate for any gaps or mistakes on the field.


Kahaulelio echoed the sentiment of effort and determination. Moreover, his focus on speed and unity within the defensive line highlighted his commitment to excelling as captain.


“So with our speed and the new guys that we brought in with good size, we think [they] could definitely bring that effort and determination to the defensive line unit this year,” Kahaulelio said.


When asked what he brings to the captain’s circle, Kahaulelio believed his deep-rooted knowledge of the game helped him provide insight. “Having a strong IQ of not only the sport but having a good head on your shoulders is a great aspect of being a team captain,” Kahaulelio said. “Having a good IQ and showing good effort to let other people know that I don’t just preach about it—I am about it.”


All these captains recognize the power of communication, and its pivotal role in their leadership styles. They understand that open communication and shared responsibilities builds a cohesive team.

Senior offensive lineman, Shiloh Ta’ase. Courtesy of PSU Athletics


Ta’ase articulated this notion when he spoke about being a player-led team. “We want to make sure that these actions are coming from within the team,” he said. This approach implied both captains and players alike share the responsibilities of steering the team’s trajectory.


Henry added to this sentiment by underlining the role of two-way communication between the players and the coaching staff. He believes an open dialogue is essential for setting common expectations and goals. “Having those open-door policies, so that we can have those conversations[…], is just important to kind of get things out in the open,” Henry said, highlighting how unity begins with transparency.


Meanwhile, Kahaulelio stressed the importance of balancing athletics and academics. For him, teaching younger players time management becomes crucial in their transition from high school, where they have more flexible schedules. “Definitely work on time management,” Kahaulelio said. “Learning how to balance everything, manage time and write schedules out is a big thing.”


One of the most striking lessons they learned from their collective experiences was the art of adapting to wins and losses. Henry pointed out how understanding the balance between victories and defeats is crucial. He has gleaned insights from winning and losing seasons, emphasizing the significance of building resilience. 


“Not everything’s going to be perfect,” Henry said. “Mistakes happen, but I think that exceptional effort, crazy effort, our maniacal effort can kind of compensate for those gaps.” By taking losses as opportunities for growth and transforming them into wins, Henry believes the team can keep pushing forward.


The unity and synchronization of this group of captains is evident in their shared visions for the team. “There’s no cliques inside the team or anything like that,” Ta’ase said. “We are all together as one.” This sense of cohesion extended beyond their interactions on the field by way of them sharing their limited free time together.


With the opening game on the horizon, their united focus remains unwavering. Three of the seven captains underscored the significance of staying mission-focused and united, even as the team faces diverse opponents throughout the season. They have resolved to exceed expectations and demonstrate their commitment to their sport and each other.

Senior defensive tackle, Dino Kahaulelio. Courtesy of PSU Athletics