In a perfect world, Cameron Friel would be quarterbacking Kailua into the playoffs by now.
In this pandemic world, Friel won’t play another down for the Surfriders. The senior will graduate early from Kailua and enroll at UNLV in January, getting an early start to his college football career.
“It’s something I’ve been deciding ever since I committed,” said Friel, who gave the Rebels his oral commitment on May 18. “It wasn’t a for-sure thing until recently.”
Friel also has offers from Colorado, Fresno State, Navy, Nevada and San Diego State.
When the fall sports season was postponed to early 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several student-athletes from Hawaii departed for Utah and Idaho, where fall sports were played as scheduled. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound playmaker weighed his options carefully.
“I wanted to wait. The coaches at UNLV gave me the option, too. They know how important it is playing your last year of high school. But the months went by and it didn’t look like there’s going to be a season, so my parents and I made a decision,” Friel said. “Maybe if the season would (begin) next month, but if it’s not I’m going to have to stick with going early.”
Friel has a 3.7 grade-point average.
“Once I get (to UNLV), I believe they’ll probably be wrapping up the season. I know the coaches are telling me I could get a head-start in school, take some courses,” he said. “Coach said once I get there I can start competing.”
The reaction from his football circle has been mixed.
“My coaches are really, it’s kind of like, ’That’s your decision. We’re here to support you.’ There’s no negative things. Just positive. I have some teammates that are, ‘Aw bro, you’re going to leave.’ ”
For now, Friel and dozens of local players are flying to the PTP National College Showcase this week in Utah.
“We have Kahanu Kia, Tevarua Tafiti, Anthony (Sagapolutele). Our defense is stacked. Koby Moananu, Trech (Kekahuna), Landon (Clevenger), Raydan (Kiaaina-Caires), Travis Ross. A lot of guys are going up to get looked at,” Friel said.
With a scholarship waiting for him, Friel could bide his time rather than risk injury at the showcase.
“I just want to go up there because I miss playing. I miss the game. I’ll be flying up with my cousin Anthony. He’s a workaholic. He’s hungry. You can see it in his eyes,” he said. “I want to help the guys I’m going up with. Me and Kilinahe (Mendiola-Jensen of Punahou) are on the same flight. We’re going to visit Leif Fautanu.”
Fautanu, a standout from Pac-Five and University Lab, plays for UNLV. Mendiola-Jensen, a defensive back from Punahou, is also a UNLV commit.
Friel plans on returning in June for graduation if there is a formal ceremony.
“That’s something that I wanted to do. I’ll talk with the UNLV coaches, and when the time comes, I’ll try and have a couple of days or a couple of weeks before I go back,” he said.
Last year, Saint Louis linebackers Jordan Botelho and Nick Herbig completed graduation requirements early. Botelho enrolled at Notre Dame and Herbig at Wisconsin in January of 2020.
Friel played junior varsity football at Saint Louis as a freshman before transferring to Kailua, where he started as a sophomore and junior.