It’s been less than 24 hours since Oregon State offered a football scholarship to eighth grader Tausili Fiatoa.
The Kahuku Intermediate School student is the first athlete in recent memory — going back to former Saint Louis offensive lineman Solomon Koehler — to receive an offer at such a young age. Fiatoa, son of Kaipo Fiatoa and former UH volleyball player Tehani (Miyashiro) Fiatoa, has been a standout for the Laie Park Red Raiders, and his performance at the Nike Opening Combine at Aloha Stadium in early February opened a lot of eyes.
Laie Park coach Aisa Wily, who was recently hired as Kahuku High School’s junior varsity football coach, was kind enough to participate in a little Q&A on Friday afternoon with Hawaii Prep World.
HPW: Eighth grade. College scholarship offer. It must be a whirlwind for Tausili, his family, and everyone around him right now.
Wily: When you think back to when we were eighth grade, it’s totally different now. They have more available to them, they learn faster. Every year, our eighth graders’ intelligence in football is off the charts. They’re way mature and they kind of know what they want. When I think back to when I was in eighth grade, compared to them, I was childish.
HPW: Can you elaborate on pros and cons of being recruited as such a young age?
Wily: Personally I know the family and I know how hard he’s worked since fourth grade. Knowing him, a scholarship offer will motivate him even more. Of course, once you get offered a scholarship at a young age, a kid might take his foot off the gas pedal, but overall, I like them getting recruited this earlier.
HPW: There could be a significant effect on incoming football talent at Kahuku now that you’re on the staff there.
Wily: I’m going to be at the high school JV and I never saw myself doing that, never wanted to. But all of the better kids from Laie Park have been going to Punahou and Saint Louis. Coach (Kale) Ane, Coach Cal Lee would see our games, introduce themselves to our kids, and meet the parents. When these coaches tell them how good their kids are, they want to send them there. I really want our (Laie Park) intermediate division (team) to link with the high school (Kahuku) and see the kids stay home.
(Note: Fiatoa may be exploring the possibility of playing for Bishop Gorman, Nev., this fall as a freshman.)
The bottom line is, Punahou is a great school. Saint Louis is a great school. I’m trying to help Coach (Vavae) Tata. I see what he’s done since he walked on (Kahuku’s) campus. With Coach Tata, study hall is two hours and he’s pushing academics straight from the get go with teachers there for the kids who want the help instead of just one assistant coach.
HPW: Tausili is 6-foot-1 and 184 pounds, listed as a defensive end. Is that pretty much his niche?
Wily: Not at all. I’m pretty sure Oregon State recruited him as an athlete. They didn’t put a position on him yet because he’s so young. For our team, he plays multiple positions. He’s a tight end on offense, sometimes a fullback, sometimes at linebacker. Most of the time he’s at defensive end because that’s where we need him. Even if he doesn’t grow, he can end up being a linebacker.
HPW: Is he a guy who pounds the weights and drinks a lot of protein shakes with the goal of putting on as much mass as possible?
Wily: He’s already doing weight room workouts. Not heavy because he’s so young. But he has a serious work ethic.
HPW: Do you think more offers will trickle in during these next couple of years, or will it have a domino effect?
Wily: Most definitely other schools are going to come after this kid. The same with Miki Ah You (Junior’s grandson). He and Tausili work hand in hand. Miki hasn’t gotten the exposure because he hasn’t been able to go to the camps and combines, but this kid, you’re going to hear about him. Both of them have 3.5 GPA.
HPW: Speaking of exposure, I still find it amazing that a single combine generated this much attention from a university so soon.
Wily: Tausili’s mom just put a highlight video on YouTube a couple of days ago and I don’t know if that affected Coach Chad (Kauhaahaa of Oregon State).
HPW: It’s late May and Laie Park’s season is winding down. Are you starting to feel the effects of running that program as well as Kahuku JV?
Wily: It’s too early. I’m still going to be running (Laie Park Red Raiders); that’s what I really want to do. And the high school is finally acknowledging its feeder program. I’m looking forward to working with all the kids. I’m not worried about on-field stuff. I have to learn how to build relationships with our administration.
Note: Laie Park, featuring Fiatoa, will face the Ewa Beach Sabers, quarterbacked by Taulia Tagovailoa, a younger brother of Saint Louis QB Tua Tagovailoa. That game will begin around 7 p.m. at Mililani High School’s John Kauinana Stadium.