After Sione Potoa’e was given the microphone to address the crowd gathered inside the new performing arts center at Lakes High School, he asked them to bear with him.
“I’m kind of shy,” the 6-foot-3, 285-pound senior said.
Potoa’e may not enjoy public speaking, but he attracts plenty of attention on the football field. On Thursday, he was formally invited to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 10 in San Antonio.
Lancers coach Dave Miller said Potoa’e, who plays tackle on defense and offense, is deserving.
“He’s probably the most dominant lineman I’ve coached in my 25 years in high school coaching,” he said. “He’s so explosive, so strong and athletic.
“He could probably play running back for us, he’s so athletic.”
Potoa’e anchors a defense that has allowed 56 points this season, including just four touchdowns in the first halves of games. The Lancers have been absolutely stifling against the run, holding teams to 185 yards on 182 carries through seven games. Potoa’e, along with defensive linemen Martin Smitherman and Eddie Releford, are so fast and strong that they free up Lakes’ linebackers to make plays.
“There is so much speed on our defense that even when the offense puts us in a bad position,” Miller said, “instead of giving up a big gain, these guys can make the adjustment and hold them for (a) small gain.”
Even on a defense loaded with talented players, Potoa’e still finds multiple offensive linemen coming his way. Yet, he still makes plays.
“Whether it’s double-teams or triple-teams,” Miller said, “he just is unblockable.”
Potoa’e has given an oral commitment to play at the University of Washington, but he plans to make official visits to a handful of other schools. Potoa’e is one of two players from the state chosen to play in the Army All-American Bowl. Skyline quarterback Jake Heaps is the other.
Being selected to play in the game has a special significance to Potoa’e. His father, Aleki Potoa’e, is stationed overseas with the Army. Potoa’e had a chance to talk to his father last week before he traveled from Iraq to Samoa, where he helped in the aftermath of a tsunami that killed more than 170 people.
“It was very nice to hear his voice, it was warming,” he said. “I hadn’t heard it for a while.
“This is such an honor to play for the Army. I’m playing for my dad, playing for everyone in Iraq, I’m going to do my best to represent.”