HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tom Lemming, a national high school football analyst and writer, met with Hawaii's players -- including Saint Louis' Billy Ray Stutzmann, right -- and interviewed them yesterday at Kapolei.
Football prospects get noticed
This time, there was no heartbreak for Mana Rosa.
In fact, on this visit to Oahu, there was no sense of defeat in a state-tournament football game for the Baldwin defensive end. This time, Rosa flew to Oahu for an opportunity to brighten his promising future even more.
Rosa was among a dozen or so high school football prospects who gathered at Kapolei High School yesterday to meet with longtime high school football writer Tom Lemming.
"I wanted to get more exposure and have a really good experience," said Rosa, who was one of the Maui Interscholastic League's top defensive players. He has since grown to 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds.
Lemming, a national prep football guru, is the point man for Prep Football Report magazine, available Aug. 1 at bookstores. He also hosts a weekly TV program called "Generation Next" on CBS Sports.
Lemming first came to the islands in 1987 when the Skip Akina Classic drew plenty of attention. Over the years, his input gave USA Today a close-up view of Hawaii's top players.
"I remember Jason Ching, Chris Naeole, Darnell Arceneaux," Lemming said under a scorching sun. Lemming is also involved with selecting players for the U.S. Army All-American Game, played in San Antonio in January, and has ties to the Under Armour All-American Game in Florida.
His interviews with some players, such as Punahou standouts Manti Te'o and Dalton Hilliard, will air on the TV program and on CBSsports.com at a later date. All of the exposure is a long cry from the 1980s.
"You know what? Back then, no one aside from a few schools really knew 'em," he recalled. "Now it's the best place to recruit that they haven't been to before."
Lemming believes that sooner, rather than later, all 119 Division I universities will send at least one coach to the islands on an annual basis.
"Hawaii players are always quick, tough and hard-working. It's just a matter of getting them more exposure," he said. "Hawaii is among the top 20 states overall in talent."
The gathering grew in size when Lemming got help from Doris Sullivan of Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance.
At least two college coaches, Mike Cavanaugh of Oregon State and Terry Price of Auburn, were on campus to evaluate Kapolei players Stan Hasiak and Chad Lopati. The gathering gave them a first-hand look at some of the best players in the islands.
"These coaches just hit the jackpot," Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez said.
Cavanaugh and Price, like all NCAA coaches, are not permitted direct contact with players during this period. They aren't allowed to talk about potential recruits, either. Cavanaugh, the former UH assistant, is the offensive line coach at Oregon State. Price coaches defensive ends.
Hasiak, a 6-foot-5, 330-pound offensive tackle, has a 3.4 grade-point average and has taken the SAT once. Lopati, a 6-1, 235-pound outside linebacker, has gained 20 pounds since the end of football season.
Hasiak hopes his buddy, Lopati, will keep improving his academics and get a route to Division I football soon.
"I've been on his okole about it," he said.
Hasiak has received scholarship offers from Washington, Oregon, Cal, UCLA and Arizona.
Te'o was the Star-Bulletin defensive player of the year. He has scholarship offers from 29 schools, including USC and Penn State. He has no favorites, not outwardly.
"I'm keeping it wide open," he said.
Hawaii has expressed interest, Te'o added, but has not made an offer.
Hilliard, an All-State second-team running back, recently participated in a camp at Stanford. He has offers from nine schools, including Colorado, Stanford and Notre Dame.
Two sophomores at the gathering were Dalaunte "Taz" Stevenson of Mililani and defensive end V.J. Fehoko of Farrington. Fehoko has drawn wide interest -- his brothers are Whitley (San Diego State) and Sam (Texas Tech).
Stevenson, who ran a 10.88 in the 100-meter dash this spring, didn't mind being one of the youngest athletes at the gathering.
"It feels comfortable. I know a lot of people here," said Stevenson, a second-team All-State selection. "It's just like the football field."
Like Stevenson, Rosa competed in the state track and field championships. He plans to get back in the weight room after spending the weekend here.
"I've been training with Kaluka (Maiava)," he said of the former Star-Bulletin defensive player of the year and current USC linebacker. "I know I have a lot of work to do. If you go against the best, you only get better."
Oregon State has shown a lot of interest, Rosa said.
The next event for college prospects is May 31 when PIAA hosts its annual combine at Saint Louis. The event is being supported in part by former UH lineman Leo Goeas.