At the home of Cameron Friel in Windward Oahu, the roosters seemed to be crowing about him before sunrise on Wednesday morning.
The Kailua quarterback was up early to sign his letter of intent to play for UNLV. Punahou defensive back Kilinahe Mendiola-Jensen and Friel joined forces for an Instagram Live feed, signing their respective letters to play for the Rebels.
College coaches can receive official LOIs by noon, Eastern Time. Normally, a signing event comes with an LOI day. However, the early-signing opportunity in mid-December is a new wrinkle by the NCAA, and limited to football recruits. Education-1st hosts signing events on Oahu, but cited soft interest. Other signees today include Kamehameha offensive lineman Austyn Kauhi and a number of Saint Louis seniors. The Crusaders will have a press conference on campus later today.
Mendiola-Jensen, a bit of a tech wiz with videos and editing, suggested the idea to his future teammate.
“We just decided to do it together on IG Live. This is the first time that I’ve gone live. It wasn’t that hard. All you had to do is press a few buttons and we’re there,” he said. “It feels pretty cool. A good relief. It feels normal, just going with everything day by day. A big accomplishment for me. It’s amazing.”
Friel, now 6 feet, 4 inches and 215 pounds, will graduate early from Kailua.
“I feel excited. I can’t wait to go to work. I leave the day after the Polynesian Bowl, Jan. 24,” he said.
Mendiola-Jensen has also been invited to play in the Poly Bowl.
“Hopefully, we still have a game. I want to play in that game, especially, and hopefully we get a regular season,” he said.
Once the letters were signed, they joined an online conference call with the UNLV coaching staff.
“We got on FaceTime with the offensive coordinator, the quarterbacks coach, the head coach and they showed everybody in the room,” Friel said. “It was a big room, I think in the cafeteria in the athletic complex. Once we told them we were official, they started blowing the air horns.”
UNLV actually returns to campus for spring semester one week before the Polynesian Bowl.
“I’ll be able to start school here (online). I just feel that going early gives myself a head not only a head start in football with all the plays, but a head start in my education,” Friel said. “They playback and the workout plan will be mailed to me. I’ll go up there in January and come back in May, then I’ll go back in June.”
Mendiola-Jensen, a 6-2, 160-pound playmaker in the secondary, got a look at the UNLV campus recently.
“I got to go up there, stop by on my own time when we were heading up to Utah (for a camp). I got to see the facility and campus from the outside. It was a dead period, so I couldn’t see the coaches,” he said.
Through today’s technology, he has built relationships with the staff and some of his new teammates.
“We have a commitment class to talk story and get to know each other more,” Mendiola-Jensen said.
He has done all his school work through distance learning, but will be on campus when spring semester arrives.
“For me, personally, I’ve been working out all the time and we wear masks. That’s the main thing: be smart, space out. You never know who could have (coronavirus). Have to take every precaution,” he said.
Leaving early for college wasn’t a priority.
“We never thought about going earlier. It wasn’t at the top of our mind,” said Mendiola-Jensen, who had a handful of family members nearby as he signed the letter at his grandmother’s house. “It’ll be pretty nice to make all these memories before we leave, especially with this pandemic. Make the most of our days before I head up there in June.”
He had a couple of shout-outs.
“Shout out to UNLV, Coach Trey Watson and Coach (Marcus) Arroyo,” Mendiola-Jensen said.
For both Mendiola-Jensen and Friel, the work ethic never wavered since the pandemic began. Friel found ways to work out whether it was in a back yard or at a park.
“Shout out to my quarterback coach, Kelii Tilton. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. We just worked out yesterday and we’re going to work out tomorrow,” he said. “We took a little time off when he went on a trip to take care of his oldest daughter in college, but other than that we’ve been going at it three times a week.”