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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.