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Sunday, January 10, 2010

UNLV may have hit recruiting jackpot with Hawaiian transplant

Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010 | 6:45 p.m.

Pac-10 schools such as Cal, Oregon State and Washington heavily recruited Desmond Tautofi after his junior season of high school football at Kaimuki High in Honolulu.

But after moving to Las Vegas in August and being ruled ineligible by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive lineman fell off the recruiting map.

Not for new UNLV coach Bobby Hauck.

Tautofi, who attends 2A classification Calvary Chapel in Las Vegas, visited UNLV this weekend with six other locals and committed to the Rebels on Sunday after his trip. He joins Green Valley High kicker Nolan Kohorst, Bishop Gorman defensive back Taylor Spencer and Desert Pines wide receiver Eric Tuiloma, who also committed Sunday.

Calvary Chapel coach Cliff Frazier, who has been coaching in Las Vegas since the early 1980s, said he feels the Rebels have a steal in Tautofi, who practiced most of the season with Calvary Chapel.

"There is not much the kid can't do," Frazier said. "He's agile, agile, agile. He could have played quarterback, and been one of the best in town, if he wanted to."

He'll line up on defense for UNLV, and, after taking a year off, is eager to strap on his shoulder pads.

"I like contact. I like getting in peoples' faces and getting all of my strength into them," Tautofi said. "I like when the opposing team is scared of me. That's how it was. I was that guy who was always beating up other guys. But I'm a cool dude — until the ball is snapped."

Tautofi moved to Las Vegas to live his brother, Robert Tautofi, an assistant coach with Calvary Chapel and former player at UCLA.

But the association never cleared him and he wound up missing his entire senior year. That scared off recruiters from other schools.

"The kid was just a stud in Hawaii," Frazier said. "There is not much he can't do. He's just so quick off the ball."

Tautofi is a two-star recruit by scouting service Rivals.com and two-time all-state selection in football, basketball and volleyball. He also helped Kaimuki win the state basketball crown as a freshman.

"His footwork for the most part is exceptional," David Tautofi said. "He just has a world of talent."

Desmond Tautofi initially gave a soft verbal commitment to Wyoming as a sophomore — a shock to most recruiting experts — but the Cowboys also backed off once he was ruled ineligible.

UNLV turned out being the perfect match — and the lone school that didn't pull its scholarship offer.

"I always wanted to be a Rebel," Tautofi said. "I went to all of their games this year and wished I was on the field hitting people. I'm grateful coach Hauck didn't care what happened to me and went off film from my junior year."

Tautofi said Hauck preached during the weekend visit about transforming the program into something the community can be proud off. Tautofi is eager for that opportunity.

"One of the biggest reasons why I committed to UNLV was to give the Rebel Nation something to be excited about," he said. "When coach Hauck says we are going to win, it's not a suggestion. It's a guarantee."

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