The Pro Bowl is Sunday and the Super Bowl is one week later, so you know what that means — the end of football season.
So, before it’s too late, let’s catch up with a former Hawaii high school player who had perhaps the biggest season out of anyone from around here — Clemson defensive tackle Scott Pagano.
Pagano and his Tigers were 45-40 losers to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. He played four years at Moanalua, but only two on the varsity.
While speaking on the phone from the Clemson campus Friday, Pagano had a bit of a Southern twang that he’s picked up in the last three years.
“It’s a different atmosphere and culture over here,” Pagano said. “It’s kind of like when people come to Hawaii, they’ll starting sounding a little more local.”
Pagano, who is 6 feet 3 and 295 pounds, said he and his teammates felt they dominated Alabama everywhere but on the scoreboard.
“We made some critical mistakes in the fourth quarter that came to bite us back. We wanted to be the first team to finish 15-0, but we came up a little short. We’re hungry to get back there.”
Pagano was born in California and moved to Hawaii at age 6. He didn’t play Pop Warner or Big Boyz football.
He redshirted as a freshman at Clemson and then played four games in his first season on the field before starting nine of 15 games this season. He also has two years of eligibility left.
“My role was what everyone else’s role was,” Pagano said. “That’s to come in and work hard and make plays. Be disruptive, learn from the coaches and get better. All season, it was really incredible. Starting on Aug. 3, we bought into the process. I came into last offseason really confident that I could make a huge jump.”
And the best part about the championship game?
“It was so surreal, flying into Arizona and experiencing the whole thing, taking the field for the last time (this season) with my brothers. The coolest part was my family was all there — my dad, my mom, five to seven cousins, and (former Moanalua head football) Coach (Arnold) Martinez and Coach Kaleo (a former offensive line assistant) flew out.”
Pagano fondly remembers his time playing for Na Menehune. He said he learned a lot, and he wanted to give some credit to Ray Eselu and Savai‘i Eselu, assistants at the time.
Pagano also gave his best wishes to Savai‘i Eselu, who was hired as Moanalua’s coach on Thursday, the day before Pagano spoke to Hawaii Prep World.
For Hawaii’s budding college football players, Pagano gave his thoughts about the difference between playing in high school and playing for a top-notch Division I college.
“The biggest difference is probably technique,” he said. “In high school, not everyone you’re facing is a D-I offensive lineman. It’s also a mental shift. You’ve got to grind it out and work for what you want. I took it upon myself to be dedicated to compete at this level.”