It didn’t take long for a Pac-12 Conference football program to notice Solomone Malafu.
Arizona State is the first FBS program to make a scholarship offer to the 6-foot-1, 225-pound linebacker/running back from Kapaa. Malafu has a 3.6 grade-point average and was voted to the Star-Advertiser All-State first team by coaches and media after a scintillating performance at the Division II state championships.
“Just after the last game, sending out my film to all these coaches. They saw mine and texted me that he was going to be here,” Malafu said, referring to Sun Devils assistant coach Shaun Aguano.
Aguano is a Kapaa graduate.
“He had a meeting with our coaches and my principal, and they told me about the offer,” Malafu said.
Kapaa coach Mike Tresler, a former Hawaii defensive back, is stoked.
“Oregon and Arizona State are two great programs with outstanding coaches. We are fortunate to have the opportunity and exposure for these kids. We will certainly continue to foster those relationships in hopes that other student-athletes get similar opportunities,” Tresler said. “Coach Aguano from ASU has been a mentor and has a great wealth of knowledge and support for our program. The Kauai connection is strong and we certainly appreciate him and ASU head coach Herman Edwards and his staff. We’re very excited for these two young men!”
The list of Hawaii football players who have been coveted by college teams grows by the day. In the past week, All-State offensive lineman Kawika Rogers, Malafu’s teammate at Kapaa, committed to Oregon. Arizona has made offers to at least four island players: receiver/cornerback Gavin Hunter of Mililani, linebacker Kamuela Kaaihue of Roosevelt, and linebackers Liona Lefau and Leonard Ah You of Kahuku. Nevada made an offer to Saint Louis’ speedy receiver, Trech Kekahuna, and San Diego State offered Campbell cornerback Kela Moore a scholarship.
Learning to use social media has helped many student-athletes, Malafu included.
“Everything is through Twitter,” he said. “I feel great. and just hoping that more schools see it and reach out.”
Another program making an impact is Pac-12 champion Utah.
“A coach from Utah reached out to me,” Malafu said.
Getting exposure usually requires island athletes to get to the continent for camps and combines. Malafu received an invitation to play in the NFL national combine on Feb. 3-6 at the Pro Bowl.
“It’s in Las Vegas. I fly out next week,” he said.
The trip to Las Vegas is a good problem. He is getting his academic load done before flying out. His family is doing what it can to meet the financial cost of his next journey.
“I’ve been in tutoring for the past couple of days to get my work all done and my tests before I go. During lunch recess, studying Algebra II,” the junior said.
He also gets high-quality reps in new places when he can.
“On Oahu, when I went for an official visit to UH, I visited with some families in Laie. “247sports was there and they took a picture and interviewed me, as well. They said they got me into the camp.”
Malafu’s range and physicality as a middle linebacker are off the charts. He also plays basketball, and will miss part of the unbeaten Warriors’ schedule because of the trip. His athleticism, IQ and versatility would fit perfectly with the Rebel Squad Pylon team from Kahuku.
“I got to meet Liona, Kaikai (Kainoa Carvalho) guys and make new friends with them. The Rebel Squad. I did some lineman things, met the DC and some coaches there,” Malafu said. “Pylon? If I can and if they get back to me, I would probably take the opportunity to showcase myself more. Here on Kauai and Kapaa, there’s not much.”
It’s quite possible that the extent of upcoming offers would snowball even if Malafu didn’t travel one inch away from Kapaa. He has gotten plenty of sage advice from family about preparing for the next level.
“Some of my cousins who play in college say this is a good weight. Just get faster, that twitch,” he said.
One of his cousins is Sitiveni Havili-Kaufusi, a defensive lineman at UCLA. Havili-Kaufusi, from Waimanalo, played at Punahou.
“(Kaufusi) has helped us a lot. he was here for my grandma’s birthday,” Malafu said. “He told me how to tweet things.”
Malafu also played with the Trench Dawgz club team when they traveled to Arizona last summer. They defeated Sin City Legendz 30-13.