Versatile Eselu in tune with Moanalua football
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
The 6-foot-3, then-235-pound football player was in awe.
Just seeing the tiers of seating was overwhelming. After all, the venue hosted many stars over the years.
"It was kind of an adrenaline-pumping thing," recalled Moanalua tight end/defensive end Savai'i Eselu, now tipping the scale at 245.
But he was not at Aloha Stadium, where some of the NFL's greatest players have left their cleat marks in the 27 years of the Pro Bowl. No, this was a shrine. Peter Tchaikovsky and George Gerschwin are just a few who have performed there. But last year, with the Moanalua High orchestra, was Eselu, an upright string bass player, performing at Carnegie Hall in New York.
It was a different kind of performance Eselu was about to embark. Yet, it had the feel of an important football game, such as when Na Menehune played Radford for the O'ahu Interscholastic Association White championship last year, the first time Eselu played at Aloha Stadium.
"When you go up the stairs (to the stage at Carnegie), it was like (getting ready for) a football game," he said.
What a difference a musical instrument has made on a kid growing up in Waipahu, where he still resides. Because his parents wanted him to attend Moanalua Middle School, he needed a geographic exemption. One of the options was to take subjects not available at Waipahu. Orchestra was his ticket for a GE.
But music wasn't just a token to attend school in another district. Eselu loves music as much as he does sports. He has learned to appreciate music of all genres. He was pleasantly surprised to find, as Mr. Holland told his students in the movie, "the connective fiber" between classical music and rock 'n' roll.
"Not a lot of people notice, but there's some stuff in the classical pieces that a rapper uses," he said.
The GE, it turns out, helped make him become a well-rounded person. Eselu said his parents, Raymond and Tammy Eselu, pretty much set him on the track a long time ago. The summer before entering Moanalua High, he attended summer school, as well as the ensuing summers after that. He will graduate with more than the minimum required number of credits. To boot, he has maintained a 3.9 grade point average. His older sister, Sanoe (Moanalua 2003), who plays volleyball at Menlo (Calif.) College, also was a good student and was an example to Savai'i, their mother, Tammy Eselu said.
But this year, Eselu had to make a sacrifice. After consultation with his parents, Eselu is not taking orchestra his senior year. (His GE is still valid because the minimum requirement of taking the class three years has already been fulfilled, he said.) Moanalua's orchestra is as demanding as athletics, as evidence by their performance at Carnegie. Tammy Eselu said orchestra rehearsals cut into football practice the past years, making Savai'i late sometimes.
"He felt it wouldn't be fair to the other team members if he walked in late," she said.
"In a way, me and my parents were kind of disappointed, but you gotta give and take on both sides," said Savai'i, who wants to major in aeronautical engineering. "Right now, football is the main source for my ticket into college."
Indeed. He is ranked fourth in the state among the leading recruits, according to rivals.com. He already has scholarship offers from UNLV, Arizona, Utah, Brigham Young, Colorado, Oregon and San Diego State. Stanford, California and Washington also are showing interest. He is allowed five recruiting visits, which usually happen in December and January. That is another reason he had to sacrifice orchestra because the trips would mean he might miss rehearsals or performances.
As Eselu is off the field, he is versatile on it. He is primarily a tight end, but will line up wide in certain formations. At least two colleges want him to play defensive line, Moanalua coach Arnold Martinez said, so Eselu will play defensive end and tackle, although not on a full-time basis. He played about 10 plays on defense in Friday's 41-0 win against Roosevelt and had two sacks, Martinez said. He also had two receptions for 31 yards.
"We can plug'em anywhere we need'em," Martinez said.
Now if there were more hours in a day, perhaps he could be plugged back into the string bass line.
"We'll miss him," said junior bass player Carina Surface, who enjoyed it when Eselu would sing when they had little jam sessions on the side. "He's a good leader."
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.