It’s been said before: college football coaches across the country are putting a premium on recruiting island prospects.
But there’s more to it. It’s not just the explosive growth of interest in prime talent — Marcus Mariota and Manti Te‘o are the two finest examples — that lures coaches to the islands. More and more coaches on lower levels from FCS (formerly known as Division I-AA) to Division II, III and NAIA are becoming more devoted to scouring island talent.
For island fans, it’s no surprise. But just go back two decades, and the difficulty of connecting college recruiters with Hawaii prospects was real. The Internet changed much of that. So did the proliferation of mainland summer camps that helped local athletes gain big exposure — in live action — to the nation’s top coaches. Many of this year’s biggest local catches, like Fred Ulu-Perry of Saint Louis, have drawn the most interest during those summer events on the mainland.
But the second-tier athletes are who seem to be benefiting from the pipeline, and much of that connection has been sparked by Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance. The student-athlete service is non-profit and has been run for more than a decade by Doris Sullivan. On her Facebook page Thursday, she listed numerous island football players who have been recruited by smaller universities, colleges and junior colleges.
The reality of what PIAA and high school coaches like Kapolei’s Darren Hernandez have done — sending out a prolific number of video footage, transcripts and other vital information to recruiters — goes beyond height, weight and statistics. Sullivan and the coaches provide a level of trust that recruiters need when their targets are more than 2,000 miles away.
Sullivan’s Facebook posts led to this intriguing message late in the day:
“I got a call today from a college coach who has always looked the PIAA site and he watched the Life Champion Senior Bowl on ScoringLive but just never really pushed to recruit Hawaii. Today he saw all the posts on Facebook of offers coming in to football players and he said, ‘Damn, I gotta get in on this. Re-send me the rosters and recruiting sheet.’ Thats what I’m talking about!”
Here’s a list of the players Sullivan posted on Thursday alone:
>> Aaron Kokubun, Kamehameha-Maui, OL, 6-3, 310: Offer from Briar Cliff University (Iowa).
>> Zeno Choi, Kaiser, DE, 6-3, 256: Offer from Yale.
>> Jordan Taamu, Pearl City, QB, 6-3, 185: Offer from Pima Community College (Ariz.).
>> Preston Dudoit, Kalani, DB, 5-7, 165: Offers from Briar Cliff University (Iowa) and Saint Mary (Kan.) (lacrosse and football). Also has a lacrosse offer from Lindenwood University-Belleville (Ill.). Committed to Saint Mary.
>> Alexander Vainikolo, Maui, DE, 6-0, 220: Offer from Western New Mexico.
>> Leka Vainikolo, Maui, DE, 6-0, 225: Offer from Western New Mexico.
>> Allan Cui, Saint Louis, WR, 5-8, 180: Offer from Western New Mexico.
>> Derek Nishimoto, Punahou, OL, 6-5, 265: Offer from Briar Cliff University (Iowa).
>> Pono Lolohea, Maui, DL, 6-3, 235: Strongly considering College of the Sequoias (Calif.).
Again, Sullivan posted all this yesterday alone. She’s not the only individual sharing information about offers to local football players — and athletes in other sports. But she remains a key cog in the mind-meld going on between mainland coaches and island talent.