Apiata Tuihalamaka was a 2006 AIGA Foundation Participant
Ocotber 13, 2006
Apiata Tuihalamaka knows his visits
Duck Sports Authority Staff Writer
Although his senior season in high school has not gone as he originally planned, Gardena (Calif.) Serra defensive end prospect Apaiata Tuihalamaka has kept his spirits high and looks ready to come out shining in the end. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder has spent the season recovering from injury, but is nearly ready to hit the field again. Duck Sports Authority talked with him about how his recovery is progressing and his plans for official visits.
"I just started rehabbing yesterday," Tuihalamaka told us. "I should play the last two games and the playoffs if we get there. I feel better than ever, but I'm still waiting to make sure it's 100 percent."
Serra has played well in his absence.
"We're 4-1 and we're playing Cathedral on Saturday," he told us. "So far so good. It's just that the team is missing my leadership and my example."
On the recruiting front, the No. 13-ranked player in the Rivals.com California top 100 told us that he's narrowed his list to five schools – Oregon, Miami, Colorado, Nebraska, and Arizona.
For Oregon, linebackers coach Don Pellum is leading the charge.
"We talked last week on Friday after our game," he told us. "We talked about coaching stuff, like how I'm doing with my rehab, what I have to offer to the program and he was talking about me coming up for a visit. I already took an unofficial visit up there this summer, though."
Although an official visit doesn't seem to be in the cards, that doesn't mean that the Ducks are out of the picture.
"I like the support of the coaching staff, I feel really good around them," said Tuihalamaka. "They trust each other and I think they can put me in a position to succeed mentally as well as in football. It's not just that I could play as a true freshman. I don't expect to play as a freshman, but if I am needed I'll be ready if my number is called. Oregon is a wonderful city. It's kind of quiet. I can get quality time for me and my football to get along. This is what I'm doing my whole life."
Despite the glowing praise, Oregon is not the only school in the race for the four-star prospect. He has decided where he'll take his official visits.
"Nebraska, Colorado and Miami are the secure ones," he said. "I go November 4 to Miami, November 11 to Colorado and November 24 to Nebraska."
He gave us the following thoughts on those three schools.
Miami – "I grew up there. I stayed there for two or three years with my aunt in Fort Myers. The only thing I hated about it was the mosquitoes. I'm used to it because I have a feel for the weather there. I'm used to the California weather, and it's similar. The real thing that stands out is that they've proven over twenty to thirty years that they can get people on to the next level. Players like Ray Lewis and the linebackers and stuff. I'm just looking to play and get out (of California)."
Nebraska – "I can't remember the coach's name, but we talked last week around Wednesday. I think he's the linebackers coach, and I talked to the head coach (Bill Callahan) also. He was talking about the multiple positions I can play and I was telling him about how I appreciated it and how I'm going to go there for a visit. I like the fans. They're like no other. The weight program – I'm a very big proponent of it, and the defensive coordinator of our high school has been informing me of the history and tradition of their program. The support they give the players to perform on and off the field is also something I look at."
Colorado – "I took a camp over there this summer and I have a family member over there. There are a couple of Serra alumni who played there. I want to take a trip to get a feel for it."
As we mentioned earlier, Tuihalamaka has a top group he's considering.
"I have it narrowed to five," he said. "It's those three I'm visiting along with Oregon and Arizona. I'm still keeping my eyes and doors open, but there's something about those schools that I feel more comfortable with. I'm looking to get out of California."
The fifth school among his favorites is Arizona.
"I took a trip out there unofficially and I liked it," he told us. "Coach (Mike) Tuiasosopo – I think he can help me on and off the field. The (Polynesian) nationality – there are a couple of players that I knew there when I was growing up – like (Wildcat quarterback) Willie Tuitama."
Tuihalamaka plans to make his decision as soon as his senior season is complete. With his size and athleticism, he's being targeted for a number of positions by college coaches.
"Defensive end, running back, and linebacker," he said. "Nebraska and Oregon are talking about running back. I just want to play pretty much anywhere I can help the team. My preference is outside linebacker or defensive end though."