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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Evan Palelei Profile

By BILL WAGNER, Staff Writer

Naval Academy linebacker recruit Evan Palelei comes from good stock. The Nevada native is the son of Lonnie Palelei, who spent seven years in the National Football League as an offensive guard for the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and Jets.

Evan Palelei did not quite inherit the size of his father, who stood 6-foot-3 and weighed 315 pounds in his prime. However, the son is still pretty big at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds and is also fast and athletic enough to play outside linebacker.

Palelei, out of Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, is part of an impressive crop of linebackers that Navy landed as part of its 2010 recruiting class. Cardinal O’Hara product Mike O’Hara (Drexel Hill, Pa.) and St. Thomas Aquinas standout Vinnie Mauro (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) are two other “direct-entry” recruits who could make an immediate impact.

Palelei was named first team All-State after recording 88 tackles and nine sacks as a senior at Bishop Gorman. He selected Navy over scholarship offers from Colorado and Nevada-Las Vegas.

“Evan is an extremely mature kid who understood the value of a Naval Academy degree. He wants to become an engineer and knows Navy has one of the best programs in the nation,” Bishop Gorman head coach Tony Sanchez said. “He has all the intangibles you could imagine in terms of leadership, character and discipline. He will fit well at a service academy.”

Sanchez simply raves when asked about Palelei’s potential at the Division I level, saying the youngster’s upside is through the roof.

“You couldn’t find a better football player. Evan has good size, runs well and is extremely physical,” Sanchez said. “I think Evan has the ability to bulk up and possibly play defensive end down the road. He’s got great genes with his father having played in the NFL and is a very knowledgeable football player. Navy got a big-time linebacker in this kid.”

Navy entered the picture late as assistant Steve Johns could not believe that Palelei was still available in early January. The youngster wanted to get away from home and thus wasn’t too interested in UNVL and sensed he was not high in the priority list for Colorado.

Johns, who was once an assistant at UNLV and recruits the West region for Navy, made a strong push for Palelei and got him to visit Annapolis the weekend of Jan. 22-24.

“Hands down, the service academies offer a great opportunity as far as education and career. I also think the whole military experience will be something special,” he said.

Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo is the first Samoan collegiate head coach on any level and quickly developed a bond with Palelei, whose father was born in America Samoa.

“My dad knew all about Coach Niumat and is very proud of what he has accomplished. It’s definitely a real honor for me to play for Coach Niumat,” Palelei said.

Palelei has been part of two state championship squads at Bishop Gorman, which is also the alma mater of current Navy offensive lineman Sam Womack.

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