All Koby Moananu wanted was an opportunity.
He is getting one at Oregon State. The Beavers football program extended a Preferred Walk On spot to the Kaimuki senior just two days after Utah made a similar offer.
Moananu opted for Oregon State, where he plans to try out for the baseball team, too.
“I committed to them on Monday. They sent the graphic today and I sent it to coach David,” he said, referring to Kaimuki football coach David Tautofi. “I’m feeling great. I feel excited, just blessed with the opportunity to play after high school, blessed to be part of a team that wants me.”
His senior season was cancelled, but as a junior in the fall of 2019, Moananu caught 64 passes for 1,186 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Bulldogs, who won the OIA Division II title. A few months prior to that fall, he played baseball for Hawaii Elite.
“I was on a trip with Hawaii Elite and one of the (college) baseball coaches there was Rich Dorman, who was with GCU. I didn’t talk to him, but he told our coach, Coach Bu (Brandon Toro) that he was looking for me and thought I could play at the next level,” Moananu recalled.
At the time, he was 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds. Now, as a senior about to graduate, Moananu is 6-2, 190 pounds. Dorman moved on from GCU and is now an assistant baseball coach at Oregon State.
This spring, with high school sports in Hawaii finally back to some normalcy, Moananu opted to play baseball rather than club football with his prolific Kaimuki teammate, quarterback Jayden Maiava.
Kaimuki, with 10 baseball players, has benefited from Moananu’s experience and talent. He plays shortstop. The lack of depth is part of reality at Kaimuki. The lack of college offers could have derailed Moananu, one of the most dynamic playmakers in the state.
“Throughout this quarantine, the recruiting process is really hard. Oregon State really staying in touch with me is really convincing with me. I want to be part of the Beaver family,” he said.
Legi Suiaunoa is the defensive line coach at Oregon State, but also taps into the pipeline to the islands. Trench Dawgz assistant coach Kip Akana and his son, defensive end Kaeo Akana of Roosevelt, made the Beavers aware of Moananu.
“Coach Kip was helping with the recruiting process, too. Kaeo has a lot of offers and he mentioned to me a lot of coaches,” Moananu said.
Hawaii was also on the radar.
“We were actually waiting on UH for a long time, but the coaches were saying they’re supposed to have meetings about how many spots they have. The meetings kept getting dragged back because coaches were leaving,” Moananu said. “We were waiting on UH initially, but when Oregon State offers after Utah, to me that was the school I want to go to.”
Oregon State, he noted, recently completed spring camp.
Moananu’s father, Calvin, leaned toward Utah.
“My dad said maybe for baseball, Utah would be easier to make the team, but I don’t know. I fell in love with Oregon State from sophomore year,” he said. “My dad and mom (Rose) are just happy and thankful. They’ve been with me through this process, as well. It’s been hard on them, so I’m glad a little weight is off their shoulders now.”
Tautofi played at UCLA and has vivid memories of stops in Corvallis, Ore.
“All I can remember about Oregon State was just how intimate the setting was there playing on that field. The crowd literally breathing on your back and yelling at you,” he said. “But it’s a prestigious school with one of the best opportunities for land, sea and space in whatever a student chooses. It’s what makes the school unique, as well. It’s a big university in a small town and the people there are great. I think Koby will have a smooth transition there and he’ll be ready for that.”