All of the stars aligned at the end for Saint Louis senior Isaac Slade-Matautia.
The four-star linebacker announced his commitment to Oregon during the fourth quarter of the first annual Polynesian Bowl on Saturday night at Aloha Stadium. A combination of past program success, Hawaii ties and future promise played a large role in his decision.
Two of the last top-10 picks in the NFL Draft hailing from Hawaii are UO products. There’s Ducks legend and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, another Saint Louis product, who was drafted 2nd overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2015. Punahou’s DeForest Buckner was picked seventh overall by the San Fransisco 49ers last year and the defensive end had a promising rookie season.
“They left such a legacy on Hawaii football players,” Slade-Matautia said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Oregon entered the race to land Slade-Matautia in late December, and the outside linebacker is another product of a recruiting surge by first-year head coach Willie Taggart, who was hired in December after the school let go of Mark Helfrich.
“After my official visit with them, everything felt so perfect and their coaching staff was amazing,” Slade-Matautia said. “The environment there was so beautiful and I just saw myself playing there in the future.”
Perhaps the bridge that led Slade-Matautia to Eugene was UO defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt. He held the same position at Colorado before leaving to become one of Taggart’s early hires. Colorado, Nebraska and Washington State were also among Slade-Matautia’s list of finalists.
“(Leavitt) was on me when he was at Colorado so when he went to Oregon, he gave me the offer right away and he’s been bugging me ever since,” Slade-Matautia said.
The two furthered their relationship during his visit to campus where they went over film and how Slade-Matutia fits into his 3-4 scheme.
Deciding on his college destination has understandably excited Slade-Matautia, who plans to study business. As much as he wants to get going, he reinjured his shoulder during Saint Louis’ 30-14 state championship victory over Kahuku and is still in the recovery process.
If all goes well, Slade-Matautia should be recovered in two to three months and will be ready by fall camp. However, he wants to be cautious and isn’t opposed to redshirting his first year if the situation calls for it.
With all that Oregon had to offer, a long line of family members awaited Slade-Matautia as he made his decision on ESPN3’s live stream. Looking to add the element of surprise, he didn’t inform anyone of his decision beforehand.
“My family played a major part,” he said. “Everybody told me to go where my heart is. They never gave me a school to go to, they left it all up to me.
“It’s a blessing I can’t take for granted. I just gotta have the mind-set of working hard and competing, and trying to get better.”