DJ Uiagalelei has a bunch of cousins, aunts and uncles living in Hawaii — many who he has never met — and they’re planning to be at John Kauinana Stadium on Saturday night to cheer for him and his St. John Bosco football team against the host Mililani Trojans.
Uiagalelei’s dad, Dave, grew up in Waipahu from about the ages of 2 to 12 before he moved away in 1986.
DJ is the leader of a powerful, quick and athletic offense for the Braves, who are ranked No. 2 in the nation in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 and No. 3 in the USA Today Super 25. He is a big boy and a pro-style quarterback. SI.com described him as having a cannon arm in a edge rusher’s body.
The 6 foot 4 1/2, 246-pounder is a Clemson commit, and he’s been watching the defending collegiate national champion Tigers’ every game this season so far.
“I think they’re going to the national championship,” Uiagalelei said while practicing with his team at Turtle Bay on Thursday. “Their offense is not even clicking yet and they’re still putting up 500 yards. Once they start rolling, they’ll probably put up 800 yards a game. I think (quarterback) Trevor (Lawrence) is a really good and amazing player. He does a lot of good stuff and is a really good leader. I text him here and there. He’s a super cool dude.”
In front of the Braves (4-0) this week is a hungry Mililani team (6-0) that already has one win over a national power this year (34-22 at home over Liberty of Henderson, Nev., on Aug. 30).
The Braves of Bellflower, Calif., have wins over two Maryland teams, one from New Jersey and another one, 49-7, against that same Liberty team the Trojans beat. They also are aware of the reputation of Mililani’s defense, which has four Division I college prospects/commits.
A year ago, the Braves defeated the Trojans 52-14 in California.
“They’re a really good team, they have a really good defense, really good linebackers, a great coaching staff and a great offense,” said Uiagalelei, who went snorkeling before practice and saw a little rainbow fish that he’s never seen before. “We have a good game plan and we’ll get out there and see how the it goes.”
Uiagalelei gives high marks to the Braves’ offense as it prepares to face the Trojans, who are No. 22 in the MaxPreps computer poll.
“Our whole offense is explosive,” he said. “I think we have the best offense in the country — the most explosive from our offensive line to running backs to receivers.
“We have four D-I caliber receivers — Jode McDuffy, a junior, has offers from Arizona State and Oregon right now and will probably have 20 before he leaves. Beaux Collins is ranked No. 2 (WR recruit) in his 2021 class. Logan Loya has offers from all over the country. Kris Hutson (a sophomore) has an offer from Oregon.
“Running back Nathaniel Jones committed to UCLA. He’s a downhill runner, super fast and a big dude, 6 feet, 200 pounds with 4.4 speed.”
Uiagalelei calls the group of Earnest Greene, Logan Bednar, Edward Riley, Maximus Gibbs and Drake Metcalf (a Stanford commit), among others, “the best offensive line in the country.”
He also gave props to strong safety Kourt Williams (an Ohio State commit) and tackle Kobe Pepe (a USC commit) on the defensive side of the ball.
Uiagalelei is loving the trip, which included a visit to Pearl Harbor on Thursday and will also include a visit to the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame and the Polynesian Cultural Center on Friday.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to come back and see where my dad grew up,” Uiagalelei said. “There’s a gang of family that will be at the game, people I’ve seen at family reunions and people who I’ve never met. Uncles, aunties, cousins — 50 to 100 of them.”
Said coach Jason Negro about Uiagalelei: “He’s massive in stature and as humble a human being as I’ve ever met. He’s grounded and has a good grasp of who he is and his abilities. And it’s important for the team to be successful to him just as much as it is important to him to be successful as an individual.”
In four games, Uiagalelei is 50-for-90 for 1,154 yards and 15 TDs with no interceptions.
Many other players on the St. John Bosco roster have family connections in Hawaii, including offensive linemen Maicah and Mathias Talavao, safety Elias Archie, linebackers Benny and Danny Lockhart and Maa Geoteote, defensive lineman Zeke Nomaaea, defensive line coach Mia Tui and linebackers coach Rob Fuiava.
“We have so many Polynesian kids — whether they’re Samoan, Tongan or Hawaiian descent — and they really appreciate and respect the culture,” Negro said. “We talk about brotherhood at St. John Bosco and nothing symbolizes that more than taking them on a trip and teaching them about their heritage.”