The day will come when Tausili Akana will long to wear the navy blue uniform of a Kamehameha Warrior.
For now, however, he is a Wasatch Wasp, busy with the title chase in Utah. He also has one more scholarship offer to ponder: Nebraska.
“I’m really excited about Nebraska for many reasons. Of course, my older sister Keonilei loves it in Lincoln,” Akana said of the 2019 Star-Advertiser girls volleyball player of the year. “They sell out all their football and women’s volleyball games. There have been players from Hawaii that have been really successful at Nebraska. Dominic Raiola of Saint Louis and Toniu Fonoti of Kahuku.”
The offer from the Cornhuskers makes it eight in all for the 6-foot-4, 210-pound sophomore. The other offers, in chronological order: Utah, BYU, Hawaii, Arizona State, UNLV, Oregon State and Utah State.
The Huskers have former UH player and Kalaheo coach Tony Tuioti connecting with island prospects. Tuioti is selling the atmosphere of Lincoln, one of the classic destinations for college football players for decades.
“Lincoln is a college town and they love their football program. Nebraska is part of the Big Ten Conference,” said Akana, who posted a 3.8 grade-point average in the first term at Wasatch.
The Akana siblings have spent a lot of time together on the road — from Hauula to Kapalama Heights. Sometimes, it was oldest sister Braelyn at the wheel when they rode to school at Kamehameha. Last year, after Braelyn graduated — she now plays for Hawaii — it was Keonilei driving.
“That would be cool to attend school with her. We did it last year. She will make sure I stay focused in school and football. She can show me around the campus and introduce me to her teammates. She can cook, too. She also has a car. She can drive me around,” Akana said.
On the gridiron, Wasatch (7-2) completed its regular season and is the fifth seed in the Utah 5A state tournament.
“The season is going well. We just clinched the 5A Region 8 championship,” Akana said.
The Wasps have a bye in the opening round and will play the Lehi-Viewmont winner on Oct. 30.
“I am most impressed with Tausili’s ability to adjust to the schemes we have him playing on defense,” Wasatch Coach Steve Coburn said. “He is a rush end, drop linebacker, cover safety. He has the ability to play in space, and the size and skill to be a disruptive rusher as well as run stopper.”
Akana’s athleticism and football IQ translate to offense. A few weeks ago, his stiff-arm run from the running back position made it to an ESPN highlight reel.
“Our running backs coach noticed his ability to move in space as well as his speed. Tausili has flourished at that position,” Coburn said. “Also, his size really helps in pass pro.”
Akana has rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Defensively, he has 25 tackles, including two sacks. He doesn’t miss a snap on defense, and hasn’t seemed fatigued yet getting action on the other side.
“It’s been great playing both defense and offensive at Wasatch. Anything I can do to help the team. The coaches are great and our team is very competitive,” he said.
Another transfer from the islands is Mililani’s Jarinn Kalama, a wide receiver had a four-touchdown game recently. Kalama has 69 receptions for 423 yards and 11 TDs. The junior also starts at defensive back, where he has two interception to go with 11 tackles.
“Jarinn is a playmaker for us. He has the speed to take it over the top of the defense, the skill to catch the short passes as well as the screens we design for him,” Coburn said. “With his size, he is a great blocker. He works hard at being great. Both young men come from great families that support them and teach them the right things to do.”
La‘a Kalama, Jarinn’s brother, is a freshman transfer from Kamehameha. He has 12 catches for 229 yards with one TD. Defensively, the ninth-grader has three picks and 16 tackles. The Kalama brothers are cousins of Akana.
Akana arrived in Heber City, home to Wasatch High School, in early July.
“I just want to thank my Uncle Stanton and Aunty Joleen Akana for everything they do for me, and my cousins Jarinn and La’a Kalama. I want to thank Coach Steve Coburn and his awesome football staff. Also want to thank my teammates at Wasatch, and the entire fans of Heber City,” Akana said. “They are amazing!
For now, the homesickness isn’t too tough.
“Shout to my family and friends back home on the island,” he said. “Love you all.”
Akana still intends to transfer back to Kamehameha for the spring semester. He will not be eligible to play football in Hawaii as a sophomore.