Quack attack: Ducks hovering over Tafua, Apelu

Mika Tafua, Kaulana Apelu and Dylan Kane are coveted by one of the nation's top college football teams. Photo: Paul Honda.
Mika Taufa, Kaulana Apelu and Dylan Kane are coveted by one of the nation’s top college football teams. Photo: Paul Honda.

Used to be a call from the Pac-10 Conference was a huge deal.

Mosi Tatupu. John Kamana. Back in the day, everybody got perked up about the Punahou stars going to USC to play football.

These days, local players aren’t just considering one or two schools from the since-renamed Pac 12. They’re visiting multiple schools from that conference and beyond. That includes powerhouse Oregon.

The latest ventures by the Ducks, from visiting prospects like Tua Tagovailoa up on Kalaepohaku — campus of Saint Louis High School — or extending unique scenarios to other local athletes, are telling.

Mika Tafua, Kamehameha’s standout defensive end, visited the Eugene campus first, then visited USC and, as of this past weekend, trekked to Boulder, Colo.

“Colorado,” Taufa said this morning, “was cold.”

True enough. Last Saturday’s temperatures: a high of 46 degrees, low of 32. Thirty-two, as in the temperature at which water turns to ice.

Still nice enough to visit, anyway. Tafua isn’t done. Though he’s committed to BYU, he has Washington on his itinerary soon, and then his final trip will be to Provo.

Imagine for a moment, though, the possibilities for this year’s graduating class at Kamehameha. Cornerback/safety/wide receiver/returner Dylan Kane has committed to Oregon. He turned down UH and a few other Pac-12 schools.

“When I went on my visit, I enjoyed it a lot. The coaches and everything, it felt good,” the 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior said. “I’ll probably start me off at defensive back and then they can move me around to wherever they need me.”

Running back Kaulana Apelu has a preferred walk-on offer from the Ducks. That’s pretty good opportunity considering his hard-luck injuries of the past two seasons. When healthy, Apelu looked and played like one of the top backs in the state.

“I’ve got to prove myself and earn a scholarship in future years,” Apelu said. “It’s a blessing God put into my life. It’s unrealistic to not play two years and have (an offer).”

In his only game this season, Apelu rushed for 79 yards on 10 carries and caught three passes for 42 yards in a win at Del Oro (Calif.). Last year, he got injured in the season opener at Castle. In 2012, as a sophomore, he rushed for 635 yards (6.5 per carry) and seven touchdowns after beginning the season as a reserve.

Tafua and Kane have pristine memories of visiting the Oregon campus and spending time with former Saint Louis quarterback Marcus Mariota. The former All-State offensive player of the year is expected to receive the Heisman Trophy on Saturday.

“He said, work hard when you get up there. Get ready to play,” Kane said.

“He’s real humble,” Tafua added. “We went up there and the thing that stood out is he came and introduced himself to all of our family. Everyone knows who he is, but the fact that introduced himself, he’s a cool guy.”

Tafua has been sensitive about the process. BYU was his first choice and could end up being his final destination, but he wanted to maximize the possibilities.

“I’m just trying to find out what’s the best fit for me, looking these colleges and seeing where I’ll benefit the most,” he said.

The view from Kapalama Heights. Photo: Paul Honda.
The view from Kapalama Heights. Photo: Paul Honda.


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