Before he was offered late in the recruiting process by Fresno State, Kamehameha defensive lineman Nakoa Pauole was in the same situation his best friend, Alema Kapoi, was in last year.
Kapoi, who started next to Pauole on the defensive line for Kamehameha in 2015, was offered by three service academies and eventually decided to enroll at Navy.
A year later, Pauole had the same three offers to choose from before Fresno State came in and made a late offer.
The 6-foot-2, 270-pound defensive tackle visited Fresno over the weekend, where some unfortunate news basically led to his decision to attend Air Force.
“Fresno was a good choice but one thing I didn’t like was that I was probably going to have to grayshirt and become part of the 2018 class,” Pauole said. “I didn’t really want to do that.”
The Bulldogs went through a coaching chance after the end of the season with former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford replacing Tim DeRuyter.
Tedford brought in former Hawaii defensive lineman Tony Tuioti to coach the D-line at Fresno which immediately brought a bigger recruiting presence to the islands from the Bulldogs.
Kapoi was one of three seniors to pick up an offer from the Bulldogs, but Fresno State quickly filled its recruiting limit before he had made his decision.
“They had a coaching change and I think they had about 20 commitments already (before I left),” said Pauole, who thought he still had a full ride for 2017 when he left for his trip. “On my trip there were about five people that committed before I had met with the head coach so that’s when he let me know.”
Fortunately for Pauole, a second-team All-State selection of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser this past season, he still had three more offers on the table.
Navy, with his buddy Kapoi there, seemed like the obvious choice, but Pauole went with the Falcons instead.
“Air Force was where life after football was a really big thing,” Pauole said. “Football isn’t forever and you never know due to injuries or any kind of situation what could happen so I knew I would be pretty much set if I went there.”
Pauole visited Air Force, Navy and Fresno State all in the same month. He had Kapoi to talk about the positives and negatives of Navy whenever he needed, but he said at the end of the process, he didn’t get any grief from his buddy for choosing a different school.
“It just wasn’t the best fit for me and (Kapoi) supported my decision the entire way,” Pauole said. “When I visited (Air Force), all of the recruits got really close and so we already know each other and we already started to build that bond and I felt really comfortable with the guys that were going to be my classmates.”
Kapoi was one of 19 seniors from Hawaii high schools to sign with Division I schools on Wednesday.