Even after the drama had ended, Dad wasn’t quite sure what to make of son’s decision.
Aaron Faumui took it to the last possible day. He refused to wear any hat of his eventual college choice. Even his family wasn’t 100-percent sure what would happen after they arrived with him at 5:30 a.m. to sign his letter.
Less than two hours later, Faumui’s gut-wrenching decision to sign with Virginia over Hawaii was done. He was calm. He was smiling. No glee. Just satisfaction. He was one of more than 80 student-athletes who signed their letters of intent during the Education First signing ceremony early Wednesday morning at the Sheraton Waikiki.
“It was a family choice,” said Faumui, who was a Star-Advertiser All-State selection as a defensive tackle.
The 6-foot-3, 285-pound senior was also a standout on offense, a true ironman player for the Hurricanes. His 3.48 grade-point average and 1340 SAT score made him a major prospect with plenty of scholarship offers. Now he’ll be teaming up with another local player, Kahuku standout defensive end Samson Reed, as a Cavalier.
Faumui actually committed orally to Hawaii last week.
“They’re going to be mad at me,” Faumui said. “It was very stressful.”
The placard on his seat on stage, where the 80-plus future college athletes signed their names, still read “Hawaii” with the Warrior logo. But it was a matter of deep introspection and conversation for Faumui, his family and his church.
“They were praying and fasting,” Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez said of Faumui’s church members.
His father, Kalo, was still a bit stumped.
“I still don’t know. Right now, I still don’t know who he signed with,” Kalo Faumui said as his son was swamped with media interviews. “It’s too much stress. A lot of pressure.”
In the end, Faumui enjoyed his trip to the UVa campus. Their coaches didn’t back away when Faumui committed to UH. Instead, they arrived on Oahu in droves over the weekend. Faumui doesn’t own a cell phone.
“There were several schools that made a wild push since he verbally last Wednesday,” Hernandez said. “It became a huge last-minute push. They’ve been calling me, blowing my phone up. They won’t take no for an answer.”
He began high school at Radford, helping the Rams win the Division II state title as a sophomore. Then came a move to the mainland, and then he moved back home and enrolled at Kapolei.
In the process, Faumui had to say no to many schools, including Wisconsin and Florida. Hernandez made it clear that Hawaii has been everywhere on the recruiting map locally.
“UH has done a great job with recruiting this year. They’ve gone after local recruits in a great way,” said Hernandez, a former Hawaii player.
Two of them included Saint Louis wide receiver Jonah Panoke and quarterback Chevan Cordeiro. The All-State connection wasn’t fully present at the ceremony. Cordeiro signed his LOI back in December, while Panoke was on hand sitting near Faumui when he inked his paperwork.
“It’s just a relief. I’m starting a new chapter in my life,” Panoke said. “I kind of liked the ceremony. It’s only once in a lifetime.”
The pen he signed with went to his mother. So did the complimentary mini-calendar. Things get more serious from this point on. UH has high hopes for the state champions.
“It is what it is. It’s going to be fun being there with Chevan. They’re going back to the run and shoot. We already have a good idea of what we can run, our reads, everything like that,” Panoke said.
Punahou standout offensive lineman Alama Uluave donned a black-and-red San Diego State hat. He had it hidden in his mother’s purse.”
“Two weeks ago, my stress level was definitely a 10,” he said. “Now it’s just a one.”
Uluave was intent on signing with Yale or Princeton, if not SDSU. He turned down offers from across the nation, including Texas Tech and Syracuse.
“Yale and Princeton are very elite. Yale is competitive, they won the Ivy League. I just thought, after college, what will my education do for me,” he said. “But I went on my official visit (to SDSU) and it felt like a second home, just like Hawaii. The coaches and players made it very comfortable for me. The Lakalaka brothers were there. I know I can play in any system.”
His brother, former Punahou standout Semisi, is playing at Cal.
“He told me to make the best decision for me. He knew what I had on my table, but his advice was to choose what’s best for me and I can’t go wrong,” Uluave said.
Kahuku running back Enoch Nawahine was one of the student guest speakers who made one of the most poignant speeches. Despite a prolific season, he was without a scholarship offer until Boise State came calling last month.
“I was kind of nervous, but I’ve had experience speaking at church,” Nawahine said. “The last couple of years the coaches have recruited more skill players out of Hawaii. Jonah Panoke, Chevan Cordeiro. Vae Malepeai, representing the islands well at USC.”
Nawahine spent two seasons at Punahou in a pass-heavy attack. He’s prepared to sharpen every aspect of his skill set.
“I’ve gotten reps at slotback and running. Being able to throw to me coming out of the backfield,” he said. “I’m working hard.”