Kahuku standout Liona Lefau busy in present, planning future

Kahuku's Liona Lefau is the most sought-after prospect in the class of 2023 from Hawaii. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

When he’s not busy grinding away on his homework — and a 3.5 grade-point average — Liona Lefau is at track practice.

Lefau runs the 100-meter dash and 4×100 relay.

“I don’t even know what my fastest time is,” said Lefau, who last ran track two years ago, pre-pandemic, as a freshman.


He is also making time for his brothers in Rebel Squad, the national championship team in Pylon that stepped into prominence in 2021. That same squad took the Hawaii National Guard Pylon title recently, for a second year in a row.

The Star-Advertiser All-State defensive player of the year and his Rebel Squad teammates are now in Utah for another tournament.

Lefau’s busy schedule has been pushed to its limits in the past 18 months with a plethora of emails, texts and conversations with 24 college football coaches. When he trimmed that list to eight schools last winter, it only guaranteed that still more programs would make offers to the junior linebacker. Late offers have arrived fromMichigan State and Texas Tech. He plans to do more trimming sooner rather than later.

“It could be five, but the next one will probably be down to three,” said Lefau, who was 6 feet 1 and 210 pounds last fall as Kahuku won the Open Division state title. “Then it’ll be easier to compare.”

Lefau doesn’t hit all the typical bullet points. Prestige isn’t a top priority.

“I never really thought about that, comparing wins and losses. Player development, that’s always a big thing,” he said.

Cal was a considerable option, but didn’t make his cut.

“They brought in one of the D-line coaches I have a connection with, so I kind of gave them a look,” he said.

Kahuku junior Liona Lefau was a busy man in the state finals with a touchdown catch, an interception and a team-high five tackles. Kahuku because the new Open Division state champion after a 49-14 win over four-time defending champion Saint Louis. Paul Honda/phonda@staradvertiser.com.

Here is Lefau’s perspective on the final eight.

BYU: “I’m hearing good things about their program. I really like coach Kalani Sitake. And a cool guy to play for. I can see he has a good connection with his players on and off the field. When I was there they respected him as a coach and a person. When he signed his extension that was pretty big. I know he’ll be there these next seasons. And they’re joining the Big 12.”

Michigan: “I did a lot of stuff comparing schools. Of course it’s Michigan, producing athletes every year. They had a good run this past season, winning Big Ten. They’re one of my bigger schools. Them, Texas and OU. Maybe I’ll go there and experience something.”

Oklahoma: “I think I like Oklahoma. I like their coaching staff. Their linebackers coach and DC reached out to me. They’re planning on bringing me up there. They like my style of play. I want to visit there and see what they have. Jocelyn (Alo) was over here. They had a camp at Hauula and some of us football boys went there and they asked us to do the haka before they left. I just said hi (to her).”

Oregon: “They have a lot. I really like Oregon. I already liked them because of all that stuff, but I like them more when they brought in this coaching staff. from the head coach to the DC and position coaches, I have a good connection with the DC and head coach and coach (Tony) Tuioti.”

Texas: “I like Texas. It’s one of the places I got to visit. A great environment. People treated me well. As soon as I walked in the dorm, they knew who I was before I got to meet everyone. This was before they offered me. I really like their coaches and their linebackers coach and head coach.”

USC: “It was a great time when we were there. a lot of energy and lot of positivity. It seems like they’re going tin the right direction, brought in a great coaching staff. I got to visit there twice already. It was nice. good visits. I’m close with the coaches, especially the D-line and linebackers coach. I was talking to the linebackers coach almost every day. Shawn Nua recruited me at Michigan and now he’s at USC.”


Utah: “I actually really like Utah. Their player development is great, especially on the defensive side, and fits the NFL ,the way they run things. They work around the linebackers with Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell. Lloyd’s supposed to be the first linebacker taken. I like the staff and the defense they run.

“I always liked Utah and i have family. (Kahuku players) Brock (Cravens Fonoimoana), Leonard (Ah You), Kaikai (Carvalho) and me have offers. If it’s even, I’ll probably go where I feel at home.”

Ah You, an premier edge rusher, now has 10 offers. Fonoimoana has nine and Carvalho, the All-State offensive player of the year, has five.

Washington: “They fired the coach, offered me before and after. Pretty much all the schools — USC, Oregon, Washington State, Washington, Hawaii, as well —reached out to me after the coaches got fired. They re-offered.”

The toughest schools to cut, Liona added, were Arizona, Cal, Washington and Wisconsin.

“I’m more close to the UW coaches,” he said.

Prior to Sept. 1, 2021, coaches couldn’t contact Liona because of his grade level.

“Then my phone was blowing up,” he said. “Now, there’s some schools I’m leaning toward, but it’s not like I found the right place yet.”

While the future is dynamic already, Liona has always enjoyed the present, each and every moment.

“Shout out to my team, Rebel Squad, my teammates, my coaches and coach Sola Soliai. He always trains me and helps me to get to where I am now,” he said.

Soliai’s commitment and dedication to Kahuku athletes present and future is matched by few.

“He could’ve made it to UH, easily,” Lefau said. “His son, Madden, is an up-and-coming freshman. He’s going to be big for us as a wide receiver, cornerback, running back. He’s really fast.”

Lefau believes Soliai will be around for many more years.

“He has two more (children). One is a little baby,” he said.


When the time is there, in non-dead periods, the phone lights up again and again. Lefau learned to appreciate that.

“This recruiting process makes you look at college coaches a lot differently, seeing them move around all the time,” Lefau said. “They’re away from their families a lot, so it’s a big deal when they reach out to you almost every day.”

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