The name Tupak Kpeayeh isn’t unfamiliar in South Dakota and one that many more will be knowing as soon as Friday. The senior standout running back from Washington is inching closer and closer to state history.
Kpeayeh’s love for the game of football started when he was in fifth grade.
“The ball came to me, and I picked it up and I just ran and scored. Our junior football coach asked if I wanted to play running back and I was like sure. First I was a wide receiver kid, and then junior football as a wide receiver kid they don’t pass the ball, they usually run it. So it was kind of like blocking and everything. So when I saw that kick return coming to me I was like yeah this is my time, so I just took it and I just ran,” said Kpeayeh.
His inspiration growing up was Adrian Peterson, that is also the reason behind his number 28 jersey.
“I just thought if I could play like him everything would we good. And my coach gave me his number and it was kind of ironic, cause I really liked him. So I was like woah this is awesome,” said Kpeayeh.
Fast forward eight years and Tupak is chasing the record books for high school football in South Dakota..
On September 14th, Kpeayeh became Sioux Falls Washington’s new leader in career rushing touchdowns.
“I didn’t know anything about the touchdown record until my coach came up to me and told me about, because I didn’t even pay any attention to any of that type of stuff,” says Kpeayeh.
The night that Tupak broke the school record was also his senior homecoming, a moment he and his family will never forget.
“Coach was like this is your time, you can break it right here. The team just said yeah hand him the ball. And scored it and the first thing I remember was when he said keep the ball. So I ran out, looked for my dad, and just threw it up to him and said make sure to keep that.”
Kpeyah added that the football from his record breaking touchdown sits on top of the crown that he won by also being named Washington’s homecoming king that week.
Now he is pursuing an even bigger record, as he needs only two more touchdowns to become the 11-man all time leader in touchdowns scored, a record that hasn’t been broken in nearly 26-years. Leber had 61 career touchdowns when playing with Vermillion High School. After graduating in 1992, the record has not been broken. Leber also holds the state record with 5,305 yards yards. Going into week eight of the high school football season this year, Kpeyah has 4,771 yards.
“I was like woah I wasn’t even born then. So I can actually put a record up and let it last forever. So that’s like something I actually want to do have it be up there for a long time,” says Kpeyah.
Warriors Head Coach Chad Stadem credits Kpeyah’s success to his work ethic and staying humble throughout his journey.
“He’s selfless, he really is. We give him the ball quite a bit, but he always says he gets better as he goes, he gets better as the game goes along,” says Stadem.
For now, Kepeyah says he’s trusting the process and thankful he can continue playing the game he has loved since elementary school.
“The record I’m setting wouldn’t be there if I didn’t have a team like them. They’ve been doing everything, the o-line has been doing everything, I’m just following the holes. Everyone has something they're good at, and god gave it to every single person, and I find that sport is my talent,” said Kpeayeh.
Kpeyah hopes to play football collegiately, but is still weighing his options. He also competes for Washington’s wrestling team.
Washington returns to Howard Wood Field Friday night when the Warriors host Rapid City Central.